Lake County Council bracing for budget cuts
BY CARRIE NAPOLEON Post-Tribune correspondent September 4, 2013 8:30PM
Updated: October 7, 2013 12:53PM
CROWN POINT — Lake County Council members Wednesday moved through a wish-list budget draft in order to determine just how much will have to be cut from department requests in 2014.
Talk about those cuts will come as soon as Thursday when council members meet for a second budget workshop at 2 p.m.
During the first budget workshop Wednesday, council members approved the recommendations of the strategic plan/budget committee for the steps necessary to balance the 2014 budget in line with the 2013 budget.
They also moved to plug in additional department requests and obligations that will wind up being more than $17 million over the 2013 budget, according to documents provided by county officials.
“Every one of these things represents something we have got to do,” Council President Ted Bilski, D-Hobart, said.
By including what he described as the “worst case” scenario of financial needs that are not supported, officials will have a clearer picture of just what the county’s shortfall will be once the new revenue streams area included. Cuts are to be expected.
Unfunded requests include items such as the 35 additional correctional officers needed to meet the Department of Justice’s mandate the Lake County Jail increase its staffing by 65. Earlier this year county officials approved hiring 30 of the officers but have not found a permanent funding source for those positions. If staffing stays at the current level, officials need more than $5 million to pay for the correction officers. That figure jumps to more than $7 million if the additional 35 correctional officers are hired.
Committee members also recommended reinstating the $2 million bridge fund and $1.3 million drainage fund, which were zeroed out in 2013 to balance the budget, and dealing with some public employee retirement fund contributions and insurance shortfalls.
While the county may find itself close to $20 million over budget in 2014 with department requests and outstanding bond obligations, those figures do not include the new revenue generated by the 0.25 percent public safety and 0.25 percent county economic development income taxes.
Combined, the two taxes are expected to generate more than $14 million in new revenue.