Officials: DuPage County bracing for worst-case state budget scenario
DuPage County officials say all their services and programs will continue uninterrupted in the short term, even if state lawmakers fail to approve a budget by week's end.
But how long the county can operate normally without state funding -- or federal money funneled through the state -- remains to be seen.
Illinois has gone without a budget for nearly two years. The 2014 budget ended on June 30, 2015.
On Tuesday, county board members received a memo listing examples of what could happen in DuPage if the state's budget impasse continues beyond Friday.
For example, the county's community services department uses state appropriations and federal grants -- which are provided to the county through the state -- to help pay the salaries of 97 employees. The lack of a state budget could result in shutting down weatherization and low-income home energy assistance programs.
In addition, the county's workforce development division, which is funded entirely with federal dollars, might not be able to provide services to unemployed county residents. The state also reimburses the county for probation office salaries.
However, no cuts will be made on July 1 because the county is planning to use its own revenues to meet those expenses.
"We are not going to stop our projects," said county board member Paul Fichtner, who serves as chairman of the board's finance committee.
Cash for the expenses likely would come out of the county's reserves and be recouped after the state budget crisis is over.
"This has happened before," county board Chairman Dan Cronin said. "We have covered it. We expect and we are hopeful that in the long-term there will be a budget and -- just like years past -- we will be made whole."
But officials acknowledge that previous cuts in state funding never lasted more than a few weeks.
"So it's kind of been a low-risk bet," County Administrator Tom Cuculich said. "This year, we'll have to monitor it closely."
With some lawmakers threatening to oppose efforts to adopt a temporary stopgap budget, Cronin said there is a possibility the impasse could drag on.
"Then we've got a real problem here," he said.
Cronin said he believes DuPage could afford to cover expenses "in the short-term." But the county's reserve cash would "quickly run out," he said, and DuPage could be forced to make cuts to programs and services.
"So it's a little scary," Cronin said.
County board members are planning to review the situation again on July 18.
In the meantime, Cronin has a message for the legislature in Springfield: "Please get a budget because it will have significant consequences to the county of DuPage," he said.
The Illinois Department of Transportation is expected to suspend projects if there isn't a state budget. If the impasse stretches into the fall, officials said there could be issues with uncompleted projects, including improvements to the intersection of 75th Street and Book Road in Naperville. County transportation officials say they believe active construction projects can continue.
Day-to-day operations won't be impacted at the stormwater management department, even though the impasse could affect pass-through money from the federal government, official said. In addition, no significant changes in funding or operations are expected at the county health department.