Republican Commissioners serving on the Will County Forest Preserve, believing in less taxes and smaller government, have no desire to raise taxes and grow government. Forest Preserve Staff originally proposed large raises, land purchases, dipping into cash reserves, and bonding for capital projects.
The Finance Chair stepped down and was replaced bringing the Board together with a positive plan: Balanced Budget, Levy lower than the previous year, Reduction of the tax rate by 5%, fully funded vehicle replacement program, increasing contributions to retiree health insurance trust fund, purchase of a fuel management system, new website, reducing use of reserves by 30% $200,000, with an operating budget 2.31% lower than last year.
Will County Forest Preserve’s new finance chairman Ray Tuminello Republican New Lenox moves in with a proposed Levy Taxpayers can view as fiscally sound and favorable. There will be a reduction in the tax rate from.1977 in 2015 to .1878 this year, which is about 5% reduction in the rate. The total Levy including Debt service is down over 100,000 from last year. This is great news for the people of Will County who are fed up with increasing property taxes.
There are no raises outside of the cost of living adjustment calculated in the budget, and includes an increase of 6 to 7% for Health Insurance. Commissioners recognize the need to cut spending.
The budget does not include growing the Forest Preserve with land purchases, or taking out bonds for capital projects at this time. Expanding government is not what the people want in these economic times. People are losing money they have to spend in light of increased health insurance, taxes, fees, and cost of products. Taxpayers want less government spending less money.
Reserves are something Tuminello takes seriously. He feels they are for emergency situations only. He formed a plan to eliminate use of all reserves by 2018. Currently the Districts Reserves are nearly 9, 000,000.
In 2014 the Board of Commissioner’s approved an Early Retirement Package, reducing staff at the Forest Preserve. A total of 8 full time employees have been eliminated saving around $600,000. Remaining employees were given more responsibility so staff wanted to give pay increases, some as high as $12,000. Some Commissioners were appalled. There was talk of paying the chief of police for the Forest Preserve more than the Will County Sheriff. Tuminello proposed no raises, which was supported by all the Commissioners. This was a huge win for the taxpayers.
In the real world employees take on more responsibility without raises, and private sector employees don’t have the best benefits at very low cost to employees. If a job was posted in a newspaper for any type of work at the forest preserve there would be lines of people trying to apply for great pay, greater benefits, and no layoffs.
Once bonds from 1999 for land purchase are paid we will have a substantial reduction in the rate on debt obligation portion of the tax bill of up to about 30%.
There will be no reduction in public safety, closing of facilities, or reduction of hours.
This is a model for all taxing bodies to follow.