Will County approves $551 million budget Cutting the Tax Rate Again

Will County approves $551 million budget

The Will County board unanimously passed its 2018 balanced budget, calling for expenses of $551 million while holding the line on taxes.

Republicans hailed the budget as being “much more transparent” and reflective of “true costs.”

Democrats said they hoped to provide more money to ensure the financial health of a growing county and provide for essential human services.

It represents a reduction in corporate revenues of $887,300 on top of the $1.6 million decrease in state funds, according to Finance Committee Chairman Mike Fricilone, R-Homer Glen.

It adds $1.3 million for overtime for the sheriff’s department, and $357,000 more for the Health Department, while reducing the tax rate by 2 percent, to .5933, he said. The total tax levy approved by the board was $121 million.

For the last several years, board members have questioned why a budget is passed that does not reflect the true cost of overtime and other personnel costs, Fricilone said.

“It’s one pot of money. To give more to one we have to take something away from another,” he said.

While allowing more for overtime for the sheriff, Fricione said with the state’s new Bail Reform Act that allows offenders of nonviolent, minor crimes to be released without posting bail, they will work to close one of the six pods at county jail to reduce costs there.

While Fricilone said this will result in 200 fewer inmates, Undersheriff Bob Contro told the Finance Committee recently that it might mean 50 to 70 fewer inmates.

Corporate revenues were reduced by not adding a 1 percent increase in the Consumer Price Index to the tax levy, said Fricilone, noting that the county will receive more tax dollars by adding the value of new construction.

In presenting his budget proposal in September, Democratic County Executive Larry Walsh proposed increasing the tax levy by 1 percent to make up for the loss in state funding.

“Just because government can raise taxes, doesn’t they have to,” board member Steve Balich, R-Homer Township, said.

In increasing funds for the Health Department, the county was able to cut $830,000 in expenses at Sunny Hill Nursing Home, which reduced its population because of its switch to private rooms.

Fricilone said this reduction is the “first of several years” as they work to achieve the necessary staffing and supplies for 156 residents.

Salary expenses were reduced by $1 million, affecting nearly every department, and travel costs were reduced 50 percent across the board.

The budget called for an increase in the county board’s contingency fund to $970,000 from $700,000, which officials previously said, could be used to cover budget shortfalls.

County board member Jackie Traynere, D-Bolingbrook, said while the board is “getting better about being transparent” about the real costs of operations, “we aren’t quite there yet.”

The board approved a new labor agreement — with wage increases — with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees but did not put “those exact dollars” into the budget, she said.

“We expect each department to live by the budget, but we are not giving them the actual money we said we would pay for salaries,” she said. “We have to be honest with the salary line items.”

“Just because they get a raise, does not mean we increase appropriations,” said board member Chuck Maher, R-Naperville.

Board Speaker Jim Moustis said “nothing” was cut from the budget, but funds were “reallocated.”

“We cut additional spending and taxation,” he said.

The new budget year begins Dec. 1.

 

slafferty@tribpub.com

Discussion of the Budget starts at 26:00 minutes

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