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updated: 9/19/2012 4:59 PM

McHenry County tackles funding requests

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McHenry County Administrator Pete Austin on Tuesday gave the county board an overview of requests by department heads that could be funded with next year's projected $407,000 general fund surplus, but he recommended the board temporarily set aside $100,000 of that surplus as the budget process moves into its final two months.

"We didn't want to allocate every dollar we saw at this point. The holdback allows us to think about ways to accommodate the needs of the offices and the departments, and try to understand, on the remaining items, where the board puts the highest priority," Austin said.

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Current projections show next year's county budget at $251.4 million, an almost $5.3 million decrease from last year's budgeted $256.7 million. In response to a question from county board member Ersel Schuster, Austin said, a detailed explanation about what accounts for the decrease will be provided to the county board.

"Every year the county budget looks a bit different," depending on factors like transportation projects, contracts and debt repayment. "It is not an easy answer."

The largest supplemental expense Austin detailed on Tuesday was for the sheriff's department, which he said will need $72,000 in contractual increases for inmates' health care. The sheriff's department is also requesting $51,000 to overhaul two of its marine unit boats. Sheriff Keith Nygren said new boats would cost $100,000 each.

Other requests include the hiring of a second database administrator at $47,000, plus $58,000 in additional licenses for the county's use of OnBase computer software, Austin said. County IT Director Tom Sullivan explained that's needed for a case management system for the state's attorney's office, and invoice scanning from the auditor's office.

Compared to September 2009, the county has 64 fewer positions on its roster, 41 full time and 23 part time, Austin told the board. The county has about 1,350 employees, he said.

The projected budget includes no cost-of-living increase in the property tax levy request other than what is necessary to capture new growth, officials said.

The county board's finance and audit committee will continue discussing the budget at its Sept. 25 and Oct. 9. meetings. The county board is expected to put the levy and appropriations ordinance on public display Oct. 16 in order to adopt the final budget Nov. 20, Austin said.

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