Wauconda again talking outsourcing 911 service
Fears of state funding cuts may prompt Wauconda village officials to reconsider a shelved plan to outsource the 911 service, among other budget reductions.
Closing the town's dispatch center could save about $300,000 annually, Village Administrator Doug Maxeiner said. But the proposal was so widely vilified by the community that the village board and administration stuck it in a drawer last year without ever bringing it up for a vote.
With Gov. Bruce Rauner threatening to slash payments to municipalities, however, local spending cuts need to be contemplated, Maxeiner said.
"We're re-examining all of our costs in all of our departments," he said.
Wauconda's dispatch center is inside the police station. It serves the police department and the Wauconda Fire Protection District, as well as and the Tower Lakes and Lakemoor police departments.
Wauconda officials began discussing outsourcing the 911 center in 2013 after Mayor Frank Bart took office.
But residents have overwhelmingly opposed outsourcing, and staged public protests and filled board meetings to express their displeasure. The proposal has been on hold since summer 2014, and the protests died down.
It's resurfaced now, because officials are finalizing the town's budget for the 2016 fiscal year, which began May 1. The current version predicts about $20.9 million in expenses and about $21 million in revenue.
If state lawmakers freeze property taxes, reduce income tax revenue headed to municipalities or make other cuts as Rauner has championed, Wauconda officials may need to tighten spending to keep the budget balanced.
Maxeiner predicted needing to make $300,000 to $800,000 in local cuts, depending on the severity of the action in Springfield.
In addition to outsourcing 911 services, village leaders may look at eliminating mosquito spraying and tree-replacement programs to save cash. Wage cuts and early retirement programs could be possible, too, Maxeiner said.
About 10 full-time employees would lose their jobs if the 911 center shuts down.
Trustee Tim Howe, who was a prominent opponent of outsourcing 911 services before he was elected to the board this year, criticized Rauner's proposed cuts.
"Make no mistake, the potential damage to Wauconda and many other municipalities if the governor gets his druthers is incomprehensible," Howe said in a Facebook post this week. "He wants to balance the state's budget on the backs of villages like ours."
None of Wauconda's six trustees has supported mothballing the 911 center. But Trustee John Barbini acknowledged it needs to be investigated, in light of Rauner's threatened cuts.
"That has certainly changed the landscape," Barbini said of Rauner's financial proposals. "I think it's something we have to look at again."
Critics of the outsourcing plan remain steadfast.
Resident Kelly Kledzik said she continues to oppose outsourcing because of the potential impact on the dispatchers.
"I believe the trustees will make the right choice, but I will fight for those dispatchers every step of the way," said Kledzik, daughter of former Mayor Mark Knigge.
Maxeiner plans to meet with each trustee individually to discuss options.
A budget vote is expected June 16.