Throughout FY2017 we have seen dips in revenue, forcing the Board to require cuts in order to balance the budget. The State of Illinois is returning less money to local government, essentially robbing Peter (us) to pay Paul (bloated State of IL). Foreclosures are down, which while great news for our residents, translates to a loss in income for the Sheriff's Department. The cold hard fact is that less money is coming into the County's coffers.
Now, simple math dictates that with less money coming in less money should be going out. We can't afford to spend money we don't have, or we will follow the State's lead and go into deficit spending - And quite frankly no one wants to follow the state's lead on anything, especially fiscal management. The most fair way the Board could fix this issue is to require all departments and countywide offices cut roughly 3.6% of their proposed 2018 budget, or find corresponding revenue to offset the amount. How the officials accomplished this task is their own prerogative, since the internal control statute explicitly prohibits the Board from telling the elected officials how to run their office. We only have the duty and responsibility to explain how much money is available. For instance, while I personally believe that the GPS monitoring program used by the Courts is a great initiative, the Chief Judge and Kane County Court Services Executive Director Lisa Aust felt it was better to eliminate that program entirely than raise their court fees. Unfortunately, it's their choice not the Board's.
The Board's decision to date has not been unanimous. There is a counter proposal before us which would have the Board deplete our reserves in order to eliminate the need for cuts. As one Republican colleague stated in Committee, "If the only argument against using reserve funds is to worry about tomorrow, that's not good enough. I'm worried about today."
The problem with this notion is that it is fiscally irresponsible. We were elected to not only worry about today, but tomorrow, and the next year, and the next and so on. We didn't inherit this world from our parents, we are borrowing it from our children. While our reserves are funded above the required level, if we draw down without any plan to replenish we will eliminate all savings in a single year. This reckless type of financial planning (or lack thereof) will cause a far worse financial crisis next year, forcing us to make much deeper cuts into departments such as public safety, court management, stormwater management, transportation, etc. Or, as was specifically proposed by a Democrat colleague, raise your property taxes. I hate the policy of kicking our problems down the road. In property management, this type of "deferred maintenance" quickly turns hundred dollar repairs into thousand dollar replacements.
Let's hope that cooler heads continue to prevail, and the proposed balanced budget currently on public display passes.