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Winnebago County Budget Discussion, Including Sheriff’s Department Funding

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Winnebago County Board Members begin their official budget discussion. One of their biggest concerns is adequately funding the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department.  Two board members pitched an idea during the Monday night meeting, that they believe could solve the problem.  Some say the suggestion goes against the budget balancing methods the board is trying to adopt.

Chairman Frank Haney, Winnebago County Board
“The budget we inherited was structurally not on a thing we can continue to do,” said Winnebago County Board Chairman Frank Haney.

Fixing the budget hasn’t been easy for Winnebago County leaders.  The Sheriff and the County have been working for months to find solutions.

“The sheriff and I have had potential short term solutions into some of his challenges as well,” said Chairman Haney. “While we also kind of recommit to long term reform.  We need to not be in this position of having budget shortfall after budget shortfall, reserve spending year after reserve spending year.”

The chairman’s suggested short term solution is an extension for the Sheriff’s Department to finalize $4 million dollars in cuts, until the end of this fiscal year.

“Giving a little extra time to the sheriff that will allow him to get to his committed goal that he said he could get to he just wanted a little more time on it,” said Haney.

If the County Board votes to grant that extension, 10 corrections officers could return to their post at the jail, who were originally cut in October.  The move forced the jail to go on lockdown multiple times, which led to a lawsuit from inmates.  The cost to bring those officers back is about $350,000.  However, county leaders aren’t sure where that money will come from.

“There is a major commitment by this county board over the years and this year for public safety,” said Haney.  “What were doing is addressing a short term concern and having a discussion around that where we look at the future.”

Board members, Jim Webster (R-2nd Dist.) and David Boomer (R-4th District) suggested the county dip into its ‘Host Reserves fee’ to cover it, which that money was originally allotted for economic development.  Webster admits it’s not a long term solution, but it does help solve the immediate problem in front of them.

“We cant just have law enforcement clean up the mess when we don’t have some of those things taken care of,” said Chairman Haney.

The Public Safety and Finance Committee is set to meet Thursday, February 15th to discuss financing options.

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