“There’s a lot of different things here that we’re just trying to digest right now,” said Winnebago County Board Member Eli Nicolosi after County Administrators presented a recommended budget for 2018 Monday, during a special meeting.
The county currently is in a nearly $7 million deficit. Cuts are expected to be made to several departments and one proposal will hit the Sheriff’s Department with $4 million in cuts.
“I’m more than willing to play in the sandbox and do my share,”said Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana. “But to be the brunt of it, I know I have the largest pay role, but you’ve got to understand I have the largest amount of people, the largest amount of responsibility,” he added.
Sheriff Caruana attended, but did not speak at the special meeting. Even though he’s willing to reduce his budget, he says he can only cut about $1.5 million. However, County Board Chairman Frank Haney says he needs to cut at least twice that much.
“There’s no good solutions, we are not ignoring good solutions in favor of the one’s we may be talking about tonight, we’re just at that point where we need to look at everything,” Haney said.
Haney proposed taking half a million dollars out of the county’s reserves and gaining $800,000 from property taxes to possibly bring down the Sheriff’s cuts. Also in the proposed budget was cuts across the board including the state’s attorney’s office and a tax hike. But, several board members didn’t like that idea.
“There’s just no way that I am going to raise taxes,” Nicolosi said. “I hope the rest of the board feels the same way, it’s not happening,” he added.
“If people want to pay a little bit more to feel safe that’s great and I believe in that,” said County Board Member Burt Gerl. “But if people want to pay more taxes and receive less services, well I will fight that 100%,” he added
Gerl supports a tax hike, as long as it goes to public safety. He admits any tax increase would be a burden for residents but he says it’s necessary. “This year it will be the sheriff, next year it will be something else. It’s just not sustainable. It’s either ‘A’ increase our revenues, or ‘B’ we need to cut expenditures and cut services, you can’t do all three at once,” Gerl added.
The board will be discussing changes they would like to see and a finalized budget is set to be voted on September 28th.