Metro-East News

St. Clair County has a new budget, and the sheriff doesn’t like it

After cutting 10 percent of its general fund budget for 2016, St. Clair County isn’t planning any service cuts or enhancements for 2017.

The St. Clair County Board recently adopted its general fund budget in a 16-9 vote.

For the 2016 budget year, the county asked department heads to cut back costs by 10 percent. For the upcoming year, the 2017 budget is projected to be balanced but has no cuts or enhancements to service, said Sue Schmidt, county financial analyst.

In the sheriff’s department, people who retired weren’t replaced, and Sheriff Rick Watson warned some people might have to wait for assistance.

Watson said he wasn’t able add any positions back in his 2017 budget.

“There’s no enhancements to the budget,” Watson said. “That’s what it is. There’s no room to hire extra personnel or any of these types of things.”

There’s no enhancements to the budget. That’s what it is. There’s no room to hire extra personnel or any of these types of things.

St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson

County Board member Stephen Reeb was among the county board members to vote against the budget.

“I think there’s still more we could do with the budget to make it more efficient,” Reeb said. “Things like the East St. Louis Election Board … that should be handled by the county.”

The $41 million budget includes $6.5 million set aside for scheduled bond payments in 2017.

St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern did say there are significant road projects in the works.

“It’s going to be a good year in St. Clair County,” said St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern. “Part of the budget … is to improve Green Mount Road, fixes that have been needed for a long time, and also we’re working on getting Frank Scott Parkway punched through to (Illinois) 158 and we’ve made significant progress in the last month or so. We hope that project will be online this budget year.”

Under the county’s spending plan, the county is including a 1.5 percent pay increase for employees.

The budget includes $1.6 million to run the county’s probation department, which is being recognized as a county general fund cost in the 2017 spending plan. The state owes the county more than $5 million for probation services.

“It has accumulated over time,” County Administrator Debra Moore said. “It is still an obligation the state has to this county, and we would appreciate payment.”

I think there’s still more we could do with the budget to make it more efficient. Things like the East St. Louis Election Board … that should be handled by the county.

St. Clair County Board Member Stephen Reeb

The state also is behind on payments of 911 surcharges.

“We’re having to float state responsibility because of their reimbursements,” Moore said.

The county has seen less revenue coming in from court fees, she said, and attributed it to fewer people paying fines. She said a change in state law that prevents police officers from keeping a person’s license when they receive a ticket could be part of the problem.

“That was a big incentive to pay your ticket,” Moore said. “Being able to keep your license is a disincentive. We have noticed revenues have declined, with the implementation of that new requirement from state of Illinois.”

Interest income to the county continues to be a challenge as interest rates have not come back up since last decade, Moore said. In 2008, the county brought in $6.3 million in interest income. In 2015, it only brought in $843,000.

“That substantially impacts revenues and our ability to support areas within county government,” Moore said.

As part of the spending document, the county pointed out that it will not transfer an employee into a position if there is no revenues to support the employee’s salary.

“The problem there if we move individuals into positions that do not have the salaries to support them, we don’t have budget to support that salary,” Moore said. “We want to be very, very cautious about that. It could happen if we have a grant, and the grant expires. The revenues are not there to support the individual.”

Planning for future road projects

St. Clair County Board members set aside money to help with various road construction projects, which are in the planning stage, said St. Clair County Engineer Jim Fields.

▪  The St. Clair County Highway Department has plans to help with the replacement of a bridge along Probst Road over a tributary Richland Creek. The estimated cost is $355,000, according to county documents.

▪  Also design work for a bridge replacement along Reinneck Road over Hazel Creek is set to begin, and the actual replacement is still two years away. The project is estimated to cost $525,000, county documents say.

▪  Next month a bid opening is planned for the resurfacing of Signal Hill Boulevard from Bluff Drive to Superior Drive. The project is set to include curb and gutter work, Fields said. County documents say $1.1 million has been set aside for the Signal Hill Boulevard project.

▪  The county set aside money to help Millstadt replace sidewalk ramps along Jefferson Street in order to qualify for federal funding to help pay for street resurfacing on Jefferson Street. The project is expected to take place in the fall of next year or in 2018, Fields said. The county set aside $101,000 for the work, documents say.

How they voted

The St. Clair County Board adopted its general fund budget in a 16-9 vote.

Voting Yes: Robert Allen, June Chartrand, Carol Clark, Marty Crawford, Jerry Dinges, Steve Gomric, James Haywood, Joan McIntosh, Lonnie Mosley, Roy Mosley Jr., Dixie Seibert, Ken Sharkey, Scott Tieman, Robert Trentman, C. Richard Vernier and John West

Voting No: Bryan Bingel, Fred Boch, Kevin Dawson, Frank Heiligenstein, Craig Hubbard, Nicholas Miller, Michael O’Donnell, Stephen Reeb and C. David Tiedemann