Cronin: With less from state, DuPage will have to cut spending

Faced with a $2.7 million drop in projected revenue, county board Chairman Dan Cronin says DuPage must cut spending to produce a balanced 2018 budget that also holds the line on property taxes.

Cronin presented his proposed $439.6 million spending plan on Tuesday that calls for DuPage's property tax levy to remain flat at $66.9 million.

While Illinois finally has a budget, Cronin said, state lawmakers crafted a spending plan that keeps millions of dollars that traditionally went to counties.

"For 2018, the legislature has spoken," Cronin said during his 19-minute speech to county board members. "And the results had a definite impact on our ability to present a balanced budget here today. But as you can see, our budget is balanced."

Cronin's proposed budget is roughly $5.8 million more than the current approved amount of $433.8 million. But officials note the $439.6 million includes $9 million that was set aside to create a new $15.8 communications center on the county campus for DuPage Public Safety Communications, known as DU-COMM.

The county believes it can keep its property tax levy flat, in part, because its sales tax revenue is projected to grow by 2 percent to $100.4 million.

The challenge comes because Illinois is keeping 10 percent of the state income tax revenue that municipalities and counties receive. In addition, the state has reduced DuPage's share of the RTA sales tax and personal property replacement tax revenues.

"This represents a total revenue loss of $2.7 million," Cronin said. "This year's budget features reductions that come as an immediate result of that loss."

Cronin's proposed budget calls for the county to spend roughly $176.9 million, which is down slightly from last year. The general revenue fund pays for the county's most vital services, including public safety and the DuPage Care Center.

Cronin said it was "excruciatingly difficult" to keep general revenue fund programs stable after the state reductions.

"There is a limit to how much we can cut without threatening our ability to fulfill our mission," Cronin said. "After seven years of absorbing reductions and providing prudent fiscal management, we may be reaching a point where we simply can't cut anymore."

So after "careful, agonizing deliberation," Cronin said, all countywide offices and all departments are being asked to make cost reductions. The goal is to have the offices and departments make a total of roughly $3 million in cuts.

"I'm giving department heads some latitude in implementing these reductions," Cronin said. "We set the mark and expect each to meet it. However, please let me be clear: We as a county will continue to do more with less across the board."

The largest single area of cost to all government entities is personnel. The proposed budget reduces DuPage's full-time budgeted head count by four positions to 2,206 for fiscal 2018.

"This head count may be revised, depending on where department heads choose to implement reductions," Cronin said.

The head count was 2,270 when Cronin took office seven years ago.

County board members have until Nov. 30 to approve a budget for the 2018 fiscal year that begins Dec. 1. In the meantime, board committees will review the proposed spending plan and suggest changes.

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