Kane Co. focusing $71M in COVID funds for budget, wish list
Kane County Board members are facing reelection campaign questions about how they square debate about possible county-based tax increases while sitting on $71 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds.
On Wednesday, the committee overseeing those COVID dollars made it clear the first and second priorities for that money will be for the county's needs and wants. If there is money left over, that's when officials will consider sharing more of the dollars with community service providers.
"What are our needs? That's the primary consideration," said Jarett Sanchez, chairman of the committee.
The answer to that question is still unknown. There is the specter of possible future budget deficits to deal with. The county is facing new and increased expenses. Some of those stem from state-mandated justice reforms. The other main source relates to a desire to increase salaries and stop the flow of employees leaving because of low pay.
Board members have discussed the potential for a county gas tax increase and the creation of a new county sales tax to address those new financial pressures in the long term. But with every county board seat on 2022 ballots, there's been a push to at least delay discussion of tax increases for as long as there is COVID cash to help pay the bills.
Competing for those funds is a wish list of $49 million in projects or new programs county department heads want, such as a mobile COVID vaccination truck. Local social service providers and food banks have also made it clear they could use more help.
County board member Mavis Bates is the most vocal part of what seems to be a minority contingent that is prioritizing another round of community grants.
The spending list would need approval from the full county board. So far, the board has mainly followed recommendations from the committee.