On paper, Kane County uses cuts, savings to balance budget

Published: 10/15/2009 5:19 PM

After months of department heads begging for more money, the Kane County Board will balance the 2010 budget by borrowing from its savings and taking cash from elected officials who failed to make their own cuts.

Even that might not be enough to keep some departments from issuing layoff notices.

Immediately following months of debate about how to balance the 2009 budget, and not finding a complete solution, the county board's various committees spent several more months trying to cut the upcoming 2010 budget. Like its predecessor, the resulting 2010 budget that came to the county board's Finance Committee Thursday still called for spending more money than the county will take in. Eleven departments failed to come up with their share of budget cuts to even out the bottom line in 2010.

So the Finance Committee evened it out for them.

Following a set of recommendations from Chairman Karen McConnaughay, all departments who submitted any noteworthy cuts for 2010 will receive the reduced amounts they've already planned for. Every department that failed to make any noteworthy cuts, or asked for more money, will have their budget automatically reduced to what they received in 2009. Those black sheep budgets will then get cut an additional amount between 2 and 3 percent until the budget for the county as a whole is balanced. The lone exception is an increase in funding of about $500,000 for the clerk's office to run a primary and consolidated election in 2010.

The 2 to 3 percent cuts would've been even deeper if not for the committee agreeing to dip into some of its savings. The county will use about $600,000 of RTA sales tax contingency fund money and about $1 million of money sitting in a capital projects fund to help balance the budget. The RTA contingency will slowly replenish itself. The money from the capital projects fund is surplus cash from the general fund back from years when money aplenty flowed into the county's coffers. It will be gone forever.

The plan still must go before the Executive Committee and the full county board before it is locked in. The issue moving forward is what consequences does the plan create for people like Circuit Court Clerk Deborah Seyller, who has continued to hint at a lawsuit, and Sheriff Pat Perez, who hasn't yet cut his budget to the mandated levels for 2009.

After the meeting, Perez said the impact to him means having his unions agree to a wage freeze and benefit cuts, or laying off seven to 10 patrol deputies. On the high end, that would represent more than 10 percent of the sworn officers.

"Watch me pull this rabbit out of my hat," Perez said when asked how he could manage that. "I'm doing everything I can humanly do."

Perez briefly huddled with McConnaughay after the meeting. Afterward, McConnaughay said she's aware of how hard it will be for some elected officials to live by the 2010 budget plan. Indeed, she predicted more drama to come with both the 2009 and 2010 budgets if and when elected officials refuse to live within what they're given and run out of money.

"The county policy is when you run out of money, we stop paying your bills," McConnaughay said. "In case they thought we were kidding, we meant it. "

If that means going to court, McConnaughay said she's prepared to do that.

"I'm not wanting to spend more taxpayer money on litigation, but we have to get to a point where we maintain fiscal discipline," she said.