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County budget balanced despite diminished revenue

Brock A. Stein | 9/26/2017, 9:43 a.m.
Will County will lose a projected $2.4 million in revenue due to cuts from the new state budget but still ...
Will County Board Photo by Brock A. Stein

Will County will lose a projected $2.4 million in revenue due to cuts from the new state budget but still expects a slightly lower property tax rate for 2018.

County executive Larry Walsh said that the “historic budget crisis in Springield” has impacted revenues at the county level for the $551 million budget for next year. He said that the county would still hit its target of setting aside 22-26% in a rainy day cash reserve fund under the tightening budget which he attributed to the county’s “fiscally responsible approach.”

The county expects to lose 10% from its local government distributive fund as part of the loss as well as another 2% in RTA fees from a newly enacted administrative fee imposed by the state for the collection of sales taxes.

Walsh said that the budget will require county employees to do more with less.

The new budget also reflects an increase of $2.1 million in new property as well as a $1 million increase from the consumer price index. Increased Equalized Assessed Value on the value of properties in the county means that residents’ tax rate will decrease from.6147% to .600% next year.

The county will wring some savings out of consolidation of its 911 call centers into the under-construction public safety complex on Laraway Road and plans to dissolve the Public Building Commission which will transfer its remaining tax levy to the health department and about $2 million in remaining funds for the county’s capital fund.

“The elimination of this taxing body will remove one of the Will County lines of resident’s tax bills,” said Walsh.

The budget includes funding for its 5-year road improvement plan as well as several in- the-works capital projects including the soon-to-be-completed construction of the Laraway Road public safety complex and the start of the courthouse in downtown Joliet both of which are included in an estimated $225 million bond construction project which will also include new homes for the health department and two new satellite court sites in eastern and northern Will County.

The county will also set aside $32 million for the improvements for the expected start of the Weber Road/I-55 interchange and other road projects next year.

Employee salaries represent about 80% of the county’s $197 million corporate fund which funds general operations which included an additional $700,000 for the IMRF employee retirement fund and an additional $300,000 for salaries. The county will also pay out an additional $900,000 for benefits which Walsh attributed to increased health care costs.

The new budget does not include costs for a recently approved 5-year contract for the 750 employees covered by the AFSCME union. Under the terms of the deal, employees will receive a 1% raise for September 2017 and another 1% bump in December that will take effect in 2018. Employees will see 2% increases for 2019 and 2020 and 3% for the final year of the contract in 2021.