Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

Local News

July 16, 2010

County looks at budget cuts

EFFINGHAM — Effingham County officials hope to cut more than $1.35 million from the county budget in an effort to make up for an overall decrease in state revenue.

    “It’s not nearly as bad here as it is in other counties,” said Larry Vahling, chairman of the County Board’s Tax & Finance Committee.

    But Vahling said it’s bad enough — bad enough that he and committee member Mark Percival are meeting with county department heads next week to beat the drum for department-level cuts throughout the county.

    Vahling said he is expecting the county to lose about $450,000 in state revenues next year. That includes, he said, $474,284 in income tax receipts, as well as $4,430 in sales tax receipts and $54,957 in use tax receipts.

    Increases in supplemental ($34,060) and public safety ($30,541) tax receipts will not nearly offset the dramatic drop in income tax receipts.

    The draft budget shows projected revenues of slightly more than $8 million — down from about $9.75 million this year. To make up the difference, several departments are being asked to absorb double-digit cuts.

    For example, the Sheriff’s Department is being asked to cut 11.2 percent from its budget for next year — from about $2.78 million to $2.48 million. Sheriff John Monnet has said he plans to cut by not replacing a high-ranking deputy who is retiring, as well as cutting down on rural patrol and squad car rotation.

    Other departments facing double-digit cuts include county clerk, 14.2 percent; administration, 14.1 percent; court security, 13.8 percent; circuit clerk, 12.6 percent; election, 12.5 percent; coroner, 11.5 percent; probation, 11.1 percent; and property assessment, 10.9 percent.

    Supervisor of Assessments Pam Braun said most of the $30,000 she is being asked to cut comes from not replacing herself when she was appointed to the top supervisor’s position earlier this year. Braun had been chief deputy to longtime supervisor Jeff Simpson, who retired.

    But Braun said the department also is cutting down on continuing education, as well as trimming the number of trips into the county to conduct assessments.

    “We’re letting township assessors do more of that work,” Braun said.

    Also Thursday, the committee heard from Circuit Judge Kim Koester about public defender contracts. Koester is asking that chief public defender Lupita Thompson continues to receive $149,857 per year. She is also asking Effingham attorney Dick Runde be retained as conflict public defender. Runde would earn $31,982 for those duties.

    Runde is appointed by the court if Thompson cannot take a case due to any one of a number of conflicts, including multiple defendants in the same case or previous representation of a witness.

    Vahling said a countywide wage freeze would help the budget crunch. But several dozen county employees are represented by unions with contracts that call for a modest annual wage increase. Vahling said county officials will be meeting with union representatives in the near future in an effort to implement the freeze.

    Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 132 or bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com.

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