Kane County Board likely to consider job cuts to balance budget

Kane County officials sent a message to government employees late last week that said they would rather cut their jobs than raise property taxes.

The 2018 budget plan, though, will see the county increase the amount of taxes it collects for the second straight year.

The math is simple when looking at the budget problem. The departmental budgets would spend $1.7 million more than 2017, with projections of a revenue loss of about $3.5 million. That equates to a $5.2 million deficit.

Step 1 to address the gap is maximizing revenue. The county board's budget committee shunned notions of diverting RTA sales tax money from transportation projects. Most user fees are maxed out. Many county board members campaigned on keeping the county's property tax levy frozen as long as possible.

The board voted to unfreeze the levy for the first time in five years heading into 2017. It increased the amount of taxes collected by raising the levy to account for new construction coming on the tax roll. But it declined a cost of living increase it could have OK'd.

It's the same plan for 2018. New construction should net at least $500,000 of new tax dollars. Rejecting the cost of living increase will keep about $1.2 million of new taxes from flowing into county coffers.

The plan also calls for using about $600,000 the board set aside a few years ago into a property tax freeze maintenance fund. There's about $1.8 million in that fund.

The committee is lobbying the judiciary to increase the court security fee to an amount that would fund security costs for 2018, adding about $600,000 of revenue.

That leaves a deficit of about $3.5 million.

"The bottom line is we have to cut expenditures," budget committee Chairman John Hoscheit said. "We know 70-plus percent of our expenditures is staff-related. Where we're headed to resolve this is hard work to determine what services we're providing that we're not going to provide in the future. We've tapped out our revenue streams. Now we have to live within the confines that are available."

The results of a pending mandatory services study will be the starting point for service cuts. Hoscheit said that would be a discussion for the 2019 budget.

For 2018, the budget committee will likely call for a yet-to-be-determined expense reduction applied to every department. The expectation is cutting $3.5 million will require some loss of employees. Board members discussed chopping as many as 100 jobs in "forced attrition" over a period of a few years.

The committee didn't identify specific employees or departments for job cuts. That work will fall to the department heads, who will describe what various percentage cuts would mean to their operations and staff. For elected department heads such as the coroner, sheriff and state's attorney, they will receive a dollar amount and decide if that means cutting jobs or other expenses.

"I don't see us losing 100 employees right away," Hoscheit said. "It's big picture theory as opposed to specific, immediate implementation. But we have to work toward those efficiencies. If we only have a certain amount of money to commit to an elected official, then that's all that's there."

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