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posted: 9/5/2012 5:30 AM

McHenry board projects balanced general fund for FY2013

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As McHenry County plans for no cost-of-living increase in property taxes for the first time since the tax cap was imposed, a few county board members want to take a serious look at decreasing the size of county government in the future.

Current projections for fiscal year 2013, which begins Dec. 1, show a balanced general fund budget of $86.8 million, or about $900,000 more than last year's appropriated budget, McHenry County Administrator Peter Austin said at Tuesday's county board meeting. That includes a 2.5 percent raise for nonunion staff, union raises as per contract, plus estimates regarding the newly unionized Valley Hi nursing home staff.

Next year's property tax levy request might grow by just a "very limited amount" -- an estimated $250,000 or so -- to capture new growth in the county, Austin said.

"We were able to lower some of our training, miscellaneous, (and) meeting expenses in order to keep the budget on track," Associate County Administrator for Finance Ralph Sarbaugh said.

The projected budget includes a little less than $500,000 for supplemental requests from department heads, Austin said, adding he's especially concerned about the condition of the county's fleet of vehicles. Austin said he'll be presenting recommended supplemental expenses Sept. 18.

Moving forward, the county should consider which services aren't necessary and which can be contracted out, board member Ersel Schuster said.

Increasing expenses while reducing revenues is not viable in the long run, board member Donna Kurtz said.

"We ought to be looking at reducing boots on the ground," she said.

Board member Nick Provenzano agreed. "We can't give raises and expect head counts to be the same. We need to fundamentally change the budget size. How we do that should be up to department heads."

Board member Paula Yensen said she opposes funding programs such as lobbyists in Springfield and Washington D.C., and the McHenry County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

This year, the county started the budget process earlier, to avoid a repeat of last year when some county board members voted at the last minute against the adoption of the budget because they opposed a 1.5 percent Consumer Price Index increase.

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