DuPage County Board approves $476.2 million budget for fiscal 2020

 
 
Updated 11/26/2019 7:14 PM

DuPage County Board members on Tuesday approved a $476.2 million budget for the next fiscal year that increases spending and calls for the first property tax levy increase in 12 years.

The spending plan, which takes effect Sunday, increases DuPage's general revenue fund -- which includes the budgets of most county offices and departments -- to $183.8 million from $179.6 million.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Since I took office in 2010, we have made it our practice to ensure DuPage County government works as efficiently as possible, finding savings where we can and squeezing value out of every dollar spent," county board Chairman Dan Cronin said in a statement. "Our prudent financial management allows us to, once again, present a balanced budget and provide outstanding services to DuPage residents."

Still, six members voted against the budget: Mary FitzGerald Ozog, a Glen Ellyn Democrat; Elizabeth Chaplin, a Downers Grove Democrat; Dawn DeSart, an Aurora Democrat; Julie Renehan, a Hinsdale Democrat; Sheila Rutledge, a West Chicago Democrat; and Downers Grove Republican Brian Krajewski.

DeSart said she voted "no" because she opposed the property tax hike and didn't like the process used to create the budget.

She said board members were required to review the spending plan on their own. They were never given the results of an online survey that solicited feedback from residents on budget-related issues, she said.

"There's no budget workshops, no special committees, and no transparency," DeSart said. "Budget workshops would help us make better-informed decisions, and they would also create a level of transparency for the public."

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However, board member Jim Zay sad it's "ridiculous" to criticize the process on the day of the final vote.

"Where was this in September?" the Carol Stream Republican said. "Where was this while we were having finance meetings?"

Zay said officials started working on the budget in July and department heads and countywide elected officials attended committee meetings to make their spending requests to board members.

If board members think the process was flawed, Zay said, they have themselves to blame because they "didn't speak up soon enough."

Meanwhile, board member Robert Larsen said the spending requests exceeded the county's anticipated revenue by roughly $20 million.

"We made difficult financial choices" to balance the budget, said Larsen, a Wheaton Republican who serves as chairman of the board's finance committee.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The sheriff and county clerk, for example, both received less money than they sought.

The sheriff's office was given roughly $46 million, an increase of nearly $900,000. The county clerk office's election division will receive $5.87 million, including a little more than $2 million to pay for election judges.

The budget also provides funding to replace the county's 40-year-old property tax administration system.

After a 10 percent reduction this year, the budget will restore funding for the Human Services Grant Fund, which provides grants to agencies serving the needs of DuPage residents. The county will once again offer $1 million in grant money to help pay for dozens of projects from nonprofit groups.

DuPage also will continue its fight against heroin by setting aside $100,000 for the Heroin/Opioid Prevention and Education Taskforce. The joint operation of the county board and board of health recommends policies, initiatives and programs to battle the opioid epidemic.

On the revenue side, DuPage's property tax levy will be increased by $1.9 million to $68.8 million -- the first such increase since 2007.

Larsen said increasing the levy was a difficult decision, "but the alternatives were worse."

The owner of a $250,000 home pays roughly $129 in property taxes to the county government. That is expected to increase by less than $4, officials said.

County government accounts for less than 3 percent of the property tax bill in DuPage. School districts constitute about 73 percent of the tax bill, and municipalities account for roughly 10 percent.

To view the budget document, visit dupageco.org/finance.

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