DuPage County facing $14 million budget shortfall
DuPage County is expected to end its fiscal year with a deficit topping $14 million and will need to make significant cuts or raise property taxes to balance next year's budget.
Department heads and countywide elected officials this week are starting to present what they want to see in DuPage's budget for the 2021 fiscal year, which begins Dec. 1. But last week, DuPage County Board members got an idea of how difficult it's going to be to draft a balanced spending plan.
Board members were informed the county is on pace to spend $177.9 million of its general fund budget before the current fiscal year ends Nov. 30. But because of the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, DuPage is only projected to collect $163.8 million.
Meanwhile, DuPage is facing a budget shortfall of roughly $16.5 million next year. County departments are proposing to spend a total of $181.2 million in fiscal 2021 while DuPage is projected to collect $164.7 million.
"Obviously, we don't know what 2021 is going to bring for us," said board member Robert Larsen, who is chairman of the county's finance committee. "It's going to be a challenging year in many ways, but there is hope. There is hope that may come in the form of a (COVID-19) vaccine or economic recovery."
While officials can hope for the best, Larsen said they must plan for difficult times.
To close the projected $16.5 million gap between expenses and revenue in the proposed 2021 budget, Larsen said "tough choices" must be made.
"If they turn out not to be necessary, we will have more flexibility in our budget rather than less," the Wheaton Republican said.
During a special meeting last week, the finance committee was presented with options to reduce the projected deficit. The list includes eliminating $1 million for the Human Services Grant Fund, which provides grants to agencies serving the needs of DuPage residents. The county also could delay replacing vehicles, which would save $630,000.
One unpopular option would be to increase the county's property tax levy by nearly $1.5 million. In a straw poll vote, a majority of board members said they would not support that idea.
Members seemed more receptive to simply accounting for new construction in the next levy. That would allow the county to collect roughly $500,000 more in property taxes.
If steps aren't taken to close the budget gap, each county department would need to reduce their budgets by 9.1%, officials said.
A last option would be to consider furloughs or head count reductions.
Chairman Dan Cronin is scheduled to present his budget proposal in September. The county has until Nov. 30 to approve the spending plan for the 2021 fiscal year.