Winnebago releases funds for Sheriff’s Dept. while financial reserves dwindle

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The Winnebago County Sheriff and the County Board remain at odds over the budget. Board members voted 17 to 3 in favor of restoring $300,000 to the budget, from dwindling reserves.

“The money that has been released will help sustain administrative materials, equipment, maintenance, and stuff like that, just to keep our 9-1-1 center operating,” said Aaron Booker, member of the Public Safety Committee.

Thursday night, the Winnebago County Board approved the release of over $300,000 to the County Sheriff, amid budget cuts to the Sheriff’s Department, which had asked for $2.7 million.

“One piece of the Sheriff’s budget that was of the most immediate concern, and I think we were able to make progress, in an area around supplies and services on the 9-1-1 side, but we still have a lot of work to do,” said Mike Haney, Winnebago County Board Chairman.

Haney says the issue stems from the board not bringing in enough revenue from the county, while the expenses steadily increase.

“Since 2005, we spent $18 million outside of our budget, from reserves,” Haney said. “Now, we’re getting to the point where we can’t continue to do business the way we’ve been doing it.”

The $18 million has been coming from the county reserves, a practice that concerns many on the county board, like Ted Biondo, the Chair of the Financial Committee.

“We can’t continue to use our reserves,” Biondo said. “That’s why, I think, we got all the negative votes was the fact that our reserves are getting so depleted.”

While an immediate need, such as the 9-1-1 center, was taken care of by releasing the funds, budget discussions are far from over. County leaders are looking at several options to fulfill the Sheriff’s operational needs, and stick to a budget.

“The one thing that’s getting missed [is] there’s a lot of opportunities we’re currently exploring and I think that there’s a bunch of efficiency and effectiveness savings that we could see here, in the next couple of months, in addition to additional cuts, in addition to other budget discussions,” Haney said.

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