Winnebago County Board budget negotiations continue

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — The Winnebago County Board’s Finance Committee met Tuesday night to discuss the budget for the 2020 fiscal year.

The Finance Committee faces some tough decisions in the next couple weeks in terms of who will receive funding and whose funding will be reduced. Additionally, committee members are considering a tax increase that, according to Finance Chair Jaime Salgado, would add $750,000.00 for the county.

Most of the meeting’s discussion surrounded a memo that was sent to the full county board last week.

“I think everybody got the memo as a wake-up call,” Salgado said. “I think this is the best [spot] where we could be at right now besides taking drastic cuts.”

That memo listed nine areas where spending could be reduced. According to both Salgado and former County Administrator Carla Paschal, the nine reductions total more than $4 million. Some of the reductions in the memo include decreases in health insurance, the termination of an agreement between Winnebago County and the city of Rockford for Rockford Police to take some of the county’s 911 calls, and the reduction of funds to some county departments that typically see higher turnover rates.

All four of the budget options the committee is considering would require deficit spending, but how far into the red each dips depends on which of the four options the board eventually passes. Also, the deficit would depend on what budget amendments board members propose and which ones actually end up passing. According to Salgado, budget amendments are voted on every two weeks in the new fiscal year.

What also remains unclear is what the exact amount of revenue that could be generated by the county.

But for some county board members, like Dan Fellars, a simple request still hasn’t been met.

“When we (the County Board) asked them (the former county administrator Carla Paschal and the Finance Committee) to go find $4.8 million in cuts, we expect them to come back and suggest $4.8 million in cuts and they didn’t do that,” Fellars said. “I don’t even think they came close to that number.”

At the conclusion of Tuesday night’s meeting, Salgado gave committee members until Sept. 19 to make a decision on where they stand with either raising taxes or cutting spending. The Finance Committee will meet at that point to see where it stands on what budget it will present to the full board on Sept. 26.

One interesting point from the meeting was a suggestion from some of the Finance Committee members to dip into the commissary fund, which is a part of the sheriff’s budget, for $1 million.

Salgado called it a “legal gray-area.”

13 News reached out Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana for his reaction. He told reporters a letter was sent out to the board that it is illegal to take those funds. He said there is a state statute saying just that.

We will keep following these budget negotiations as they continue.

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