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posted: 8/28/2014 5:30 AM

Kane County closing in on balanced budget for 2015

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Less than one month after learning the 2015 budget forecast includes a $2 million deficit, Kane County officials have slashed the shortfall in half.

Now they have about three more weeks to find $1 million in cuts or new income to bridge the remaining gap.

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County Finance Director Joe Onzick said Sept. 18 is the due date to have all the answers in place. The new fiscal year doesn't begin until the end of November, but the draft budget must be on display for public comment for 30 days.

County board Chairman Chris Lauzen said the county has "some distance to cover before we come in with a balanced budget, without asking property taxpayers for more."

Lauzen and many of the board members committed to keeping the county property taxes flat during their first terms in office. To that end, the focus is on both trimming costs and finding new revenue.

Finance committee Chairman John Hoscheit said several years of lean budgets mean there isn't much left to cut. He said some requests for new personnel and changes to the county's health insurance benefits might be needed to balance the budget, but he's confident there will be no deficit by the time the county board's work is done.

"Being where we're at right now is common," Hoscheit said. "With a budget this size, the gap is fairly small."

That doesn't mean county residents won't find themselves paying more for government services. Board members have authorized a study that might lead to fee increases for services provided through the county clerk, recorder, sheriff and animal control departments. The results of that study won't be known for another month.

Hoscheit recognized fee increases aren't the most popular move, but they remain the superior option compared to property tax increases.

That said, Hoscheit indicated there might be wiggle room in the future for at least a limited increase to the county's tax levy.

"With the flat levy, we haven't captured any of the new construction," Hoscheit said.

"Recently, there hasn't been as much construction as in prior years, but it's starting to pick up. In theory, that's a hybrid way of going from an absolutely flat levy in terms of dollars.

"But (Lauzen's) position has been we're going to keep that levy flat, and we've done it."

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