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Grundy County to trim $440K from general operating budget

Published: Thursday, April 24, 2014 9:15 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, April 24, 2014 9:20 p.m. CDT

MORRIS – Fewer spare computers, less education programming, furlough days and a smaller rainy-day fund. These are a few of the ways Grundy County is trimming $440,000 from its general operating budget.

“There were several departments that provided me with reductions they could make to their budgets for this year which would show us immediate savings,” county administrator Heidi Miller said Thursday.

About two months ago, Miller asked all departments to streamline their budgets by making cuts wherever possible without laying off any employees.

The cuts will be implemented as-needed by the Grundy County Finance Committee and full board.

“What I was trying to achieve is showing the finance committee and Grundy County Board that there are options out there for them,” Miller said. “This widens their paintbrush of possibilities.”

The urgency behind the budget reduction stems from the lingering point of sale issues in Channahon and Morris. The two municipalities – and several other throughout the state – are being sued by the Regional Transportation Authority for using taxing strategies that enticed companies to open small purchasing offices within Grundy County to take advantage of the county’s low sales-tax rate.

The RTA claims the sales tax revenue generated at these remote purchasing offices should go to Cook County, which it believes houses a more significant portion of the companies in question.

Grundy County’s operating budget could shrink by 10 percent, or $1.8 million, if sales tax revenues generated in Channahon and Morris are lost, Miller said.

So far in 2014, the county has received only two supplemental sales tax checks – for the months of December and January – from Channahon totaling about $274,000.

“We are definitely looking at point-of-sale revenue being pretty much gone for 10 months out of this fiscal year. We need to be prepared,” Miller said.

The $450,000 is the result of budget reductions in nearly every department. The Technology Department can reduce its spending by nearly $50,000 by eliminating some of its spare computer purchases, among other things, technology supervisor Dan Peterson said Thursday.

“We just went through the budget line by line and took a certain amount from each line item,” Peterson said. “[The cuts] won’t really affect our services in any major way.”

Miller said the Land Use Department could trim $57,000 by not hiring a new land use director – a position formerly held by Miller – and reducing some of the classroom education programming.

“We haven’t been in the classroom in a while, quite frankly, and the schools have a lot of recycling programs in their curricula anyway,” Miller said.

Aside form the cuts, the county also is exploring new ways to raise revenue, which includes increasing user fees in the sheriff’s department, clerk and recorder’s office and health department.

A recently-completed fee study projected a maximum potential revenue of about $305,000 annually just by increasing fees in those departments.

Much discussion was held during the last finance committee meeting about the implementation of a public safety tax, which would increase the sales-tax rate from 6.25 to 6.75 percent.

The committee agreed the tax would be a “last resort” and would have to pass through a referendum on the November ballot, finance committee chairman John Galloway said Wednesday.

Instead of the tax, many members favored dipping into the county’s existing cash reserves, which total more than $8 million.

“You don’t really want to dip into your savings,” Grundy County Board Chairman Ron Severson said Thursday. “But I’d rather use that money we have saved up over the years than gather more money from the taxpayers.”

The county also is set to receive nearly $300,000 in settlement payments and save in legal fees after several property tax lawsuits recently were resolved.

“Comparing where we are right now with reserves, we’re actually in very, very good fiscal shape,” Miller said.

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