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Letter To The Editor: Montgomery County Board faces potential cuts for Fiscal Year 2018

The tentative Montgomery County budget for fiscal year 2018 came in with a deficit of approximately $600,000 in the General Fund. The General Fund supports many of the offices and services citizens use everyday. The General Fund projected revenues for 2018 are $5.8 million, the same as 2010. While the County’s revenues have been steadily declining or flat lined these past 8 years, the expenses have continued to increase.

For many years the County has used money from the sale of coal to fill the gap between expenses and revenues. This is not a sustainable practice, nor do we believe it is the correct use of that money. The Finance Committee and County Board have worked diligently the past two fiscal years to eliminate the need for coal money in day-to-day operations. Most of our offices have already made substantial adjustments, operating with smaller staffs or moving expenses out of the General Fund. Last year, with the cooperation of our elected officials, supervisors and employees we were able to cut $1 million from the General Fund budgeted expenditures. But for 2018, a deficit looms again due to the decrease in revenues.
This situation has forced the Finance Committee to recommend substantial changes to how several of our departments are funded, while working to preserve the services provided.

We are recommending Montgomery County Animal Control no longer be funded through our General Fund. Instead we are creating the Animal Control Fund (as cited in 510 ILCS 5/ Animal Control Act), which will collect all fees and fines currently being assessed by Animal Control. Expenses will be paid from this account and from any outside
contributions given to Animal Control. We anticipate minimal change to Animal Control operations.

We are also recommending moving Montgomery County Recycling to its own fund outside of the General Fund. Recycling is not a statute-mandated program, therefore it is always one of the first programs looked at for making cuts. It is also not a self-sustaining program. Being dependent on commodity prices, the program runs a deficit anywhere from several thousand to tens of thousands of dollars each year. It is also one of the most utilized services in Montgomery County and therefore one we are working to maintain. The Finance Committee is proposing recycling use its commodity prices and the landfill host fee as revenue. The department is also pursuing grant funding. The Recycling Fund will also be responsible for all program expenses.

Annually, the County Board will have to approve to pay any deficit with the Capital Improvement Fund, which is funded by coal sales. By moving the program out of the general fund we are going to preserve the program, and ensure its continuity as long as outside funds are available.

After much deliberation, the Finance Committee is proposing cuts to several General Fund offices, including reductions to the Supervisor of Assessments and GIS offices and holding
the Coroner’s office at 2017 levels. We are also proposing a proportional cut to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office budget. The dollar amount of this cut is higher than other offices because the MCSO accounts for 35% of the General Fund’s expenses. We are proposing MCSO operate on $2 million in 2018. If we do not make a proportional cut to the MCSO, we will be forced to make disproportionate cuts to all other general fund offices. Even after making these adjustments and cuts, the General Fund will still be short. We will be forced to use roughly $100,000 of coal money again in FY18 to fill the operating gap.

Unfortunately, until our economy improves and the State of Illinois increases its local government distributions, with each new budget the County will be forced to decide whether to
cut deeper or spend beyond our means. Chairman Young and I are dedicated to being responsible stewards of the tax payers’ money and will continue to pursue wise uses of the coal
money. We also pray for better times. We encourage you to call or email with any questions or comments.

Megan Beeler
Montgomery County Board Vice-Chairman and Finance Committee Chairman

Evan Young
Montgomery County Board Chairman

About the Author

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- Jake Leonard is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed and general manager of Heartland Internet Media Networks. He is an active contributor to the Nokomis Free Press-Progress in Nokomis, IL. He currently serves as chairman of Tri-Counties Libertarian Party, as deputy communications director for the Libertarian Party of Illinois and as chairman and co-founder of the Libertarian Party Millennial Caucus. He has also been politically active since 2015, having run for city council, state representative, school board and is currently running for state senator for the 2018 election season.

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Letter To The Editor: Montgomery County Board faces potential cuts for Fiscal Year 2018