Kane County officials grapple with anticipated $5.6 million shortfall
Kane County officials have kicked off 2018 budget talks focused on closing a projected $5.6 million shortfall.
"We'll roll up our sleeves and get it done," Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon told the Kane County Reporter. "It's something I've worked with the board to resolve in each of the six years I've been here."
But board members readily acknowledge that they've never seen times quite like these.
The nine-member board opened talks by advocating across-the-board cuts of as high as 10 percent, with county Chairman Christopher Lauzen openly longing for the days when the process wasn't quite so complicated. Last year, he was forced to go back on a vow by raising property taxes for the first time in five years.
"Governments of all levels are struggling with the same problem of having less and being required to do more just to be able to retain essential services," McMahon said.
In Kane County, the problem is exacerbated by a change at the legal level that board member John Hoscheit said has come about because of a more lenient approach to justice. The county has lost approximately $12 million in annual income because fewer traffic tickets have been issued and more criminal cases, like retail thefts and marijuana violations, have been charged as misdemeanors, not felonies, resulting in lesser fines and fewer dollars for the county.
"If overall crime and traffic incidents are down, that's a good thing for the community because it means there's lower crime and a better quality of living," McMahon said. "At the same time, we have to be respectful of taxpayers and how we handle all their money they've entrusted us with in coming up with a balanced budget. We have to make decisions in respect to that.
Lauzen said another option could lie in getting elected officials agreeing to sign off on cost-cutting measures such as limited travel reimbursement and less use of county credit cards.
"At the same time, we have to have the resources to respond to things like crime and developing programs that reduce crime and recidivism," said McMahon, adding that board members are always looking for ways to cut cost and since taking office he's managed to cut his staff headcount by seven.
The county's 2018 fiscal year begins on Dec. 1.
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