Suburban mayors protest Rauner cuts, learn they might lose funding sooner
Suburban municipal leaders upset with Gov. Bruce Rauner's plan to cut their share of state income taxes now fear they'll lose the money even sooner.
About a dozen mayors and trustees met with Rauner in Springfield Tuesday afternoon to explain their opposition to slashing their share of Local Government Distributive Funds in half.
Instead, they discovered Rauner wants to move up the effective date from July.
"He wants it to happen right away," said Mount Prospect Mayor Arlene Juracek, one of the delegation. Alongside her were the mayors of Schaumburg, Hoffman Estates, Des Plaines and Evanston, and trustees from Mount Prospect and Arlington Heights, among others.
The cuts would mean millions of dollars lost for suburban towns, many of which have already set their budgets for the year.
"I'm concerned there's a real danger we're going to lose a chunk of funds between now and the end of June," Juracek said.
"We could see some immediate revenue loss, but we can't really pin anybody down on specific numbers."
Rauner first proposed halving municipal income tax receipts out of the state budget starting July 1, but several state programs will run out of money sooner than that.
Now, he is looking to plug more immediate holes, and suburban mayors are more worried than they were before.
"It's definitely on the table," Hoffman Estates Mayor Bill McLeod said after the meeting. "We're just making the best case we can."
Juracek said the governor has two problems to fix: the $1.6 billion hole in the budget for the rest of 2015, and the budgets for 2016 and beyond.
Still, "We explained to him the difficulty we'll be in if revenues are cut," she said.
Juracek said Mount Prospect, like some other towns, could use cash reserves to cover the cuts in the short term, but not if the 50 percent cut becomes permanent.
While she said the 30-minute meeting with Rauner went well, the problems are far from solved.
"The proof is going to be in the pudding," she said. "This is not going to get fixed in one visit."
Several suburban village boards and city councils have passed resolutions against the cuts.
"We do not have another 30 people that we can afford to let go," Mount Prospect Trustee A. John Korn said Monday night. "We're desperately short in several departments. We need all the people that we have to ... do the job."
In lieu of cutting staff, he said, the village may have to cut services or possibly raise taxes.
Mount Prospect Trustee Paul Hoefert said it would be a good thing for the state to get its financial house in order.
"When the state gets better, we're all going to get better. But this isn't the way to do it, to take it away from communities," he said.
Buffalo Grove stands to lose nearly $2.1 million each year, according to Finance Director Scott Anderson.
"It's a significant hit to our revenue," he said.
Wheeling, meanwhile, would lose $1.86 million each year.
"The minute we start depleting our core services, the minute we start depleting our reserve funds, it affects our bond funds, our bond ratings and everything else," Wheeling Village President Dean Argiris said Monday night.
"This is a huge problem. It's not just taking the money away. It's the long term. How dare you take half of it!" he said.
Covering the loss would equate to raising the village's property tax levy by 14.7 percent or laying off about 17 employees.
Argiris called the Rauner's proposal a "Band-Aid" fix for the state's fiscal problems and urged lawmakers to tackle pension reform.
"Start there. I mean that," he said. "Leave us alone."
• Daily Herald staff writers Katlyn Smith and Steve Zalusky and correspondent Tracy Gruen contributed to this report.