Kane Co. sheriff helps trim deficit; Lauzen calls for same from others

Kane County Sheriff Don Kramer's decision to leave vacant positions unfilled will help close the county's midyear budget deficit.

It also prompted a warning from county board Chairman Chris Lauzen that other elected officials who don't follow Kramer's example may face financial punishment heading into 2018.

Kramer's move to forgo filling vacancies slashes more than $200,000 from his budget. It shrinks the county's 2017 deficit to less than $700,000 with about four months left in the fiscal year. County officials are attempting surgical cuts to shrink what began as a $2.8 million shortfall.

"I have a concern about taking a meat cleaver approach where we say we're short so we just slice things apart," county board member Deb Allan said. "It's so much better if the department heads try to do it."

But the clock is ticking on voluntary spending reductions. Unspent money becomes more scarce the longer the deficit lingers. Last-minute cuts are also more likely to include personnel, the county's largest expense.

Lauzen suggested less carrot and more stick to solve the 2017 shortfall and the larger deficit projected for 2018.

"If a department head goes over on expenses, net of revenue, will the board have a response in next year's budget?" he asked. "Because if there are no consequences to being over on a budget, all we do is invite a harder job in the next cycle. That is something the enhanced finance committee may need to look at in terms of a policy decision. We have to deliver on our promises."

The county board approved a property tax levy increase, to account for new construction, for the first time in five years in crafting the 2017 budget. So far, there's been no discussion of any tax levy increases heading into 2018.

John Hoscheit, chairman of the county board's finance committee, kept the focus on the 2017 deficit Wednesday.

"The magnitude of the concern for this year has been significantly reduced," Hoscheit said. "The process is ongoing. We've had cooperation from a number of people, particularly in the judicial and public safety arena, to reduce expenses."

Hoscheit said the county board must address the problem of rising expenses and falling revenue. He pointed to a new request to fill three vacant building maintenance positions. It is the first of its kind since a vote to renew a hiring freeze policy two weeks ago.

"I'll just say as an editorial comment that every department head and elected official is likely to say that if someone has left, their replacement is necessary," Hoscheit said.

The finance committee then voted unanimously to fill the vacancies.

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