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updated: 11/27/2012 6:04 PM

DuPage County cuts spending, holds line on property taxes

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When DuPage residents see their property tax bills increase next year, they won't have county government to blame.

The DuPage County Board on Tuesday adopted a $432.6 million spending plan for the coming fiscal year that reduces the county's overall spending by roughly $7.3 million compared to this year. As a result, the county's property tax levy will remain flat for the fifth straight year.

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Chairman Dan Cronin said the budget plan, which takes effect Saturday when DuPage's 2013 fiscal year begins, represents a commitment from the county to spend within its means and not ask for more money from property taxpayers.

"We are collectively demonstrating to taxpayers that government can make sacrifices necessary to meet the bottom line," Cronin said.

Even with the spending reduction, the county will continue to provide essential services and meet its responsibilities, Cronin said. "We just do it in a more cost-saving, more efficient manner."

As part of the budget plan, DuPage's full-time head count will be reduced by seven employees to 2,227.

Sheriff John Zaruba is going to eliminate eight full-time positions in order to cut spending in his office by about $1.5 million. Zaruba has said he will reduce his sworn staff by two and eliminate six civilian staff positions.

On the spending side, an estimated $16.9 million has been set aside for campus and countywide improvements.

In addition to that amount, the county board agreed to transfer any available excess cash remaining in this year's general fund to the capital infrastructure fund. Officials said an estimated $800,000 will be transferred so it can be used to pay for extra transportation, drainage and campus facility projects in 2013. There also might be additional money available for the stormwater management fund.

Meanwhile, board member Paul Fichtner said all county employees are scheduled to receive a 2 percent pay raise.

"So we're doing pretty good considering that we're still in an economic downturn," said Fichtner, who is chairman of the board's finance committee.

While Fichtner and other elected officials are pleased DuPage didn't need to raise property taxes to balance its budget, residents might not notice. That's because county government accounts for just 2.8 percent of the tax bill. School districts take up most of the tax bill, 72.8 percent. Municipalities constitute about 10 percent.

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