With revenue, expenses out of balance, Kane County set for crash fiscal diet
It's going to take some serious belt-tightening by everyone in Kane County to keep it on track financially, board Chairman Christopher Lauzen told the Kane County Reporter recently.
"We're in the process of everyone bringing forth a presentation of what they need and want, and the board will make sure we come in with a balanced budget as we have the last six years, " Lauzen said. "One of the most important things we'll be committed to is no property tax increases."
The county is facing a projected 2018 shortfall of $5.6 million shortfall, with the sheriff's department, state's attorney office and public defender lamenting losses in revenue at a time when expenses are rising.
Lauzen is calling for across-the-board cuts of as high as 10 percent.
"We're drafting a resolution asking all agency heads to go back to their 2016 budgets," Lauzen, who served more than 20 years in the state Senate, said. "We're asking them to start by doing contingency exercises where they decrease up to 5 percent of their budget using the 2016 budget as the base."
The nine-member board felt compelled to raise property taxes last year to make ends meet, forcing Lauzen to break his vow of not doing so. He clearly is not putting another increase on the table this year.
"It'll take lots of sweat and elbow grease," Lauzen said. "It'll take the cooperation of all the people running departments."
For his part, State's Attorney Joe McMahon is worried about lost revenue in the form of a more lax justice system. Marijuana offenses and some retail thefts that were once charged and fined as felonies are now often considered misdemeanors, he said.
Recent times have also seen a reduction in court fees, traffic fines and bond revenue.
"We'll have to sort out if it's a bigger burden for taxpayers," Lauzen said. "And if fees are going down, the natural question for board members to ask is, shouldn't expenses be decreasing if workloads are decreasing? I'm sensitive toward jobs, so rather than making employee cuts, maybe we have to put in place a hiring freeze where when people leave we don't replace the position.'
The county's 2018 fiscal year begins on Dec. 1.
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