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updated: 7/26/2011 6:24 PM

McHenry County holding off on capital projects

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Several long-term capital projects are planned in McHenry County, but not in next year's operating budget, officials say.

Instead, county board members will decide when to move forward with the projects and then fund them through county reserves, said Associate County Administrator for Finance Ralph Sarbaugh.

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"It puts (the board) in the drivers' seat about when to do that," Sarbaugh said. Sarbaugh and County Administrator Peter Austin gave an overview of the state of the county's finances, including a three-year look at capital projects, at Tuesday's meeting of the board's Finance and Audit Committee.

McHenry County's biggest proposed project is a new public safety building on 25 acres just north of the current administration building in Woodstock, Sarbaugh said. Its cost is estimated at $20 million to $30 million, he said.

"As the county continues to grow and we get more judges, that's going to be necessary," he said. "We're assuming we'll borrow money and make a payment yearly."

A new "business continuity program" is estimated to cost about $800,000, Sarbaugh said. The program would replicate all of the county's electronic data on an external server, Sarbaugh said.

"If some reason the courthouse would be destroyed or bombed, the data would also be available on another area so we would be able to continue the operations of the county," he said.

The county also is planning to integrate all of its software, allowing the sheriff's office, the circuit clerk's office and others to share data internally, making it easier to track individual court cases, Sarbaugh said.

McHenry County has about $47.5 million in reserves, or about seven month's worth of operating expenses, officials said. Although that might seem like a lot, county policy is to keep at least five months' worth of operating expenses in reserves.

"Some people think we are just sitting on money, but we are just trying to be prudent," he said.

The last fiscal year ended Nov. 30 with a $3.3 million surplus, he said.

The current fiscal year is currently expected to end with revenues matching expenses, or even a small surplus, Sarbaugh said.

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