Citing a proposed budget that is $8 million less than last year, a workforce with 40 fewer positions than two years ago and other cost-saving measures, Chairman Dan Cronin says DuPage County is thriving despite the problems facing many Illinois governmental bodies.
But speaking Monday to the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, Cronin also ripped state legislators for Illinois' 9 percent unemployment rate, $100 billion pension crisis and poor credit rating.
"I wish I could stand here and say conditions have dramatically improved over the past year, but everyone realizes we are still facing the same obstacles both in the public and private sector that we confronted over the past few years. So we continue to be better than most and that is simply because we are making decisions to reform and redesign government," Cronin said. "Whether we like it or not, the ability of the private sector to grow and thrive is directly related to the sustainability of local government. For businesses in Illinois, that's not really good news."
Most troubling, he said, is that lawmakers have "no solution to the state's intractable pension crisis" and millions of dollars in state bills remain unpaid, putting Illinois' credit rating, "somewhere between that of Bangladesh and Botswana.
"Our greatest challenge in DuPage County, as business leaders and elected officials, is figuring out how we find our way around these obstacles that have been created over time and still succeed," Cronin said.
So far, he said, DuPage County has done it by cutting more than $13 million from its budget over the past two years and eliminating a total of 40 positions during the same time.
"We do not raise taxes. We do not need to use cash or borrow money to balance the budget. We are budgeting within our means, without asking for more from the taxpayers or going into debt like most other units of government," he said. "Our revenue projections are conservative as we continue to govern within the restraints of a fledgling economy and a financially troubled state government. We continue to find economies wherever possible."
For instance, he said, a recent partnership with Kane County has allowed DuPage to close its "costly" juvenile detention facility and transfer those youthful offenders to Kane's regional service center, saving about $1.3 million this year alone.
"Reforms like this have allowed for the re-purposing of financial and head-count resources in order to meet our goals without increasing our bottom line," he said.
Tami Andrew, interim president and CEO of the Naperville chamber, said the business community is thankful for Cronin's efforts.
"(I'm most impressed with) the amount of money he is saving the taxpayers and doing it wisely without a shotgun approach. It's all very methodical and thought out," Andrew said following the presentation. "There's a lot of Naperville in DuPage County, so any time the county is saving money, there's a trickle-down effect. It may not be huge dollars, but the important fact is it's not increasing."