MONTICELLO, Ill. (WCIA) — Slashed department budgets in Piatt County could change the way departments function on a day-to-day basis, if county board members approve those budgets Tuesday morning.
County board members have spent recent meetings grappling with how they’ll compensate for a deficit projected initially to be around $700,000 — or, essentially how they’ll pay for $6.5 million worth of expenses with a revenue of only $5.8 million.
In response, board members tasked county department heads with reviewing their budgets and finding 9 percent worth of cuts.
Those cuts — reviewed Monday morning at a public meeting — show significant changes that could be coming to some county service providers if the board approves the submitted budgets.
But just how much those cuts will help remains to be seen: County board members recessed Monday’s meeting because the cuts hadn’t been added altogether from each department, meaning board members couldn’t gauge how much the proposed cuts would help the deficit.
The county clerk was tasked with generating that data Monday afternoon and sending it to board members for review prior to their vote on a tentative budget Tuesday morning.
They’ll meet in two capacities Tuesday — once at 8:30 as the finance committee, where they’ll review how much the cuts have helped, and again at 9:00 as a whole to take the vote.
County board members could vote on each individual budget, according to a statement from state’s attorney Dana Rhodes, “but traditionally it has been done looking at the total budget packet.”
In the meantime, here’s where things stood Monday morning with some county departments:
To meet the county’s percentage request, Sheriff David Hunt said his department would lose three full-time positions, and two part-time positions. He’d had an opening for a corrections officer, but told board members he’d eliminated it. Hunt said he’d also cut $5,000 from overtime funds allotted to each of the office’s departments, adding that he was “not sure how I’m going to fulfill that….when you cut staff, you end up with more overtime.” Hunt said a bailiff position for courthouse security was also on the budget’s chopping block. A contract with Advanced Correctional Healthcare of Peoria was also cut from the budget. “Obviously when we do that, we take on a little bit more liability,” he told board members. “Because if we had medical issues, we had a doctor that was right on the phone with us — it actually has saved us from a recent couple of lawsuits where we were able to say that we followed proper protocol.”
Board members also weighed whether significant cuts to the county’s Emergency Management Agency were necessary, citing a salary some believed was too high and noting the department’s budget increased. The county is required to have an EMA by law; at a previous meeting, board members had toyed eliminating the department altogether. Part of the reason for the EMA’s budget increases, director Michael Holmes told board members Monday, is the amount of work needed to be done to bring Piatt County into compliance with emergency standards. The previous director, James Donaldson, was forced to leave his position after using EMA grant funds for himself; assistant state’s attorney Elizabeth Dobson told board members he also put the county in danger of losing it’s accredited status that allows Piatt County to receive reimbursements from the state and federal government in an emergency. Holmes is working in a full-time capacity — part of the budget increase with a position that used to be part-time — and has a “75 percent” incorrect Emergency Operations Plan to update by early 2020 to keep the county accredited.
Animal Control Administrator Kay Lindsay agreed to take a $400 cut to her salary; board members made a motion to put that cut on an agenda for approval in the coming weeks. Board members noted that tag fees for the department are slated to go up — meaning a potential source of increased revenue for the county.
Seth Floyd said for his department to make the nine percent budget cut requested by board members, he would have to lay off employees or build in furlough days. The problem with that? Unionized workers are under a contract that doesn’t include furlough language — and that contract was signed 8 weeks ago.
“I did speak with the union and they were not pleased, given how recent the labor agreement was that was guaranteeing raises,” he told the board.
Floyd said he could eliminate two positions from his office, but “operations-wise, (that was) not realistic.”
“Bottom line, I cut two people and services won’t be included,” he said. “My office won’t be getting the job done.”
Dana Rhodes said the budget she submitted eliminated one of two administrative personnel positions within her department. Assistant state’s attorney Attorney Tammara Wagoner had her position reduced to part-time. (Wagoner is also planning to run for Macon County state’s attorney in the 2020 election.)
One of the things Debbi Marshall did to get her budget down was opt to pay her own mileage, reducing the “travel dues” line item on her department’s budget. Marshall joked that she hoped that was a “short-term” fix for the county’s issue. Marshall noted that her employees play a necessary role in keeping the office in control, via having them collect money and then pass it on to her for review. Marshall said if furlough days had to be implemented, “we’re going to lose good employees.”
Board members voted to change the county’s mileage reimbursement rate — which also affects them — from .58 a mile to .30. That’s one cent less than what the Internal Revenue Service recommended as a mileage rate in 1997: .31 per mile. Animal Control’s Teresa Camfield asked board members to reconsider, saying she had a difficult time finding people to work in the northern and southern parts of the county. The motion to reduce the mileage rate was approved 6-1; board member Robert Murrell voted against it. The full county board will vote on formally implementing the change at a later date.