Cronin: DuPage County must trim spending to balance budget
County board Chairman Dan Cronin says DuPage must cut spending to produce a balanced 2019 budget that holds the line on property taxes.
Cronin presented a proposed $433.8 million spending plan on Tuesday that calls for DuPage's property tax levy to remain flat at $66.9 million. The proposed budget is roughly $5.8 million less than the current budget.
"As I turn this budget proposal over to you for your examination, I can honestly say it is a conservative maintenance budget with no fat," Cronin said during his presentation to the county board. "Any further cuts, and we will hit bone.
"Realizing this, we have done everything we can to preserve our service levels," he said.
Because of fluctuating sales tax revenues and increasing personnel costs, the proposed budget calls for a 10 percent cut to the county's contribution for the DuPage Care Center. The contribution to the nursing facility in Wheaton would be reduced to $2.7 million.
A 10 percent reduction also is being proposed in the subsidies for the Stormwater Management Department and the Human Services Grant Fund.
The Human Services Grant Fund was created by the county to partner with agencies directly serving the needs of DuPage residents. Earlier this year, $1 million in grant money was awarded to help pay for 60 projects from 58 nonprofit groups. Under the proposed budget, the total amount of grant money next year would be reduced to $900,000.
Meanwhile, the Stormwater Management Department would see its subsidy from the county reduced by $285,000 to roughly $2.56 million under the proposed budget.
The subsidy is part of the nearly $13 million the department receives each year. Most of the funds come from a countywide property tax.
Jim Zay, chairman of the county's stormwater management committee, said he doesn't believe the subsidy reduction will have a negative impact because the department is finding new ways to make money.
"We're actually bringing in more revenue," Zay said. "So we won't have any cuts in service or anything like that."
In addition to the subsidy cuts, all countywide offices and departments are being asked to make cost reductions. The goal is to have the offices and departments reduce their total spending for salaries by 1 percent.
The reduction is expected to save roughly $1 million and help the county provide a 2 percent cost-of-living increase for employees.
"I believe this creates a lean but manageable budget and we will, of course, help our departments with smaller head counts," Cronin said.
Despite cuts in other areas, the county will continue its fight against heroin. The proposed budget allocates $100,000 to pay for initiatives to raise awareness about the drug.
The largest single area of cost to all government entities is personnel. The proposed budget reduces DuPage's full-time head count by 11 positions to 2,167 for fiscal 2019. The head count was 2,270 when Cronin took office eight years ago.
Board member Robert Larsen said the proposed spending plan is the result of county staff and elected officials working together.
"We budgeted conservatively," said Larsen, who is chairman of the finance committee. "This is an honest budget. It's a tough budget."
County board members have until Nov. 30 to approve a budget for the 2019 fiscal year that begins Dec. 1. In the meantime, board committees will review the proposed spending plan and suggest changes.