Metro-East News

St. Clair County plans to sue state for funding amid state budget impasse

St. Clair County is looking to sue the state of Illinois in order to obtain funding owed to the county.

On Monday, the County Board authorized legal action against the state, including getting funding meant for the county’s Emergency Telephone Systems Board, as well at the county itself.

St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly said a lawsuit potentially will be filed within the month.

Chairman Mark Kern said the state owes the county $5.8 million.

The lawsuits come about as the state’s ongoing budget impasse has yet to be solved.

Debra Moore, director of administration, said the county, like other counties, receives mandates from the state of functions to perform but no extra money to carry them out. Moore added the state is not releasing money that is needed locally.

“The bottom line is if the state wants us to perform functions, the state has to provide revenue for those services,” Moore said.

When people pay their cellphone bill, there is a 73-cent per month per line surcharge for 911 service. Of that surcharge, 67 cents goes back to the local ETSB, 5 cents goes to the wireless carrier for 911 service, and 1 cent goes to the ICC, said Bob Gough, Illinois Commerce Commission spokesman.

The last payments to ETSBs were sent on Aug. 17, when they were notified no further payments would come until a state budget is agreed upon, Gough said.

There also is a 1.5 percent surcharge for people who buy prepaid cellphones, said.

The St. Clair County Emergency Telephone System Board relies on the money, according to a resolution approved by the County Board.

“The state’s inaction in failing to distribute the funds, endangers the public safety for citizens of St. Clair County,” the resolution states.

The St. Clair County ETSB receives about $125,000 a month from a surcharge on wireless, wireline and voice over internet protocol service. The money, which represents about 72 percent of the agency’s annual budget, passes through the state coffers first, said Herb Simmons, the county’s 911 executive director.

“We’re hoping we get this,” Simmons said. “We’ll do what we can do. I hope our legislators come through with a budget. I hope someone comes to their senses and realizes 911 service is a priority.”

Several funding streams from the state have not been released because of the ongoing budget impasse between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratically controlled General Assembly.

Other items

In other action, the County Board:

▪  NGA text amendment: Approved a text amendment that would remove height restrictions for government buildings or structures in the airport overlay district. The move is meant to help attract the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency to the county.

▪  No chickens and goats: Formally denied a request from Meghan DeGroot, who lives near Belleville, to allow nonhousehold domesticated animals, such as chickens and goats, in residential areas.

▪  Park grants: Approved more than $637,700 worth of grants to 23 municipalities, park districts and organizations for various park improvements or equipment.

▪  Front Street project: Approved formally applying for a U.S. Economic Development Administration grant to help pay for an $8.1 million road reconstruction project in East St. Louis.

▪  Freeburg auto-restoration business: Allowed Kraig Auth to run an auto restoration business just west of Freeburg on a property about three-quarters of a mile off Country Side Lane west of Freeburg.

▪  Bunkam Road project oversight: Approved having SCI Engineering handle construction engineering services for about $224,000 with reconstruction along Bunkum Road from Illinois 111 in Washington Park to Illinois 157 in Caseyville getting set to take place.

▪  Flood district debt: Gave its blessing for the Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District to issue up to $100 million worth of bonds in order to carry out projects that would help bring levies to a 500-year flood protection level.

Contact reporter Joseph Bustos at jbustos@bnd.com or 618-239-2451. Follow him on Twitter: @JoeBReporter.

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