SYCAMORE – DeKalb County Board members approved a $77.3 million budget after several members wanted to spend another month giving the budget a closer examination.
On Wednesday, board members voted on separate ordinances on the tax levy and budget for fiscal 2014, which begins next year. In a 15-8 vote, board members passed the budget, which has about $77.3 million in overall expenses and an overall deficit of about $4 million. Riley Oncken, R-Sycamore, abstained during the vote.
They also approved a $20.9 million property tax levy in a 14-10 vote, which will result in increase of $8.72 in property tax bills for the average homeowner. The overall assessed value for property in the county is expected to decline by almost 8 percent, which is about the same percentage of decline this year as in 2012. Because of declining property values, the average home assessed value in the county went from $200,000 in 2010 to $160,000 this year.
Anthony Cvek, R-Sycamore, and Charles Foster, R-Shabbona, wanted to table the vote on the property tax levy and budget and study the budget further at another county finance committee meeting. Cvek said the county is spending down its reserves by almost $900,000 and board members owed it to the taxpayers to find other ways to cut costs.
“We lose nothing,” he said. “We have till the end of the year to approve a budget before Jan. 1… the only people that lose by us moving forward with this today and forcing this through without giving it an honest look are the taxpayers.”
Several board members took issue with the budget appeal process, such as Tracy Jones, R-Kirkland. Jones said he wanted a closer look at the budget because he didn’t fully understand all the money that went into the budget.
“I’m willing to bet that tonight there’s millions of dollars on the table that a lot of people sitting right here are going to approve them [and] don’t know anything about them,” he said.
Other board members such as Frank O’Barski, D-DeKalb, and Mark Pietrowski, D-Cortland, said board members should pass the budget and find ways to make cuts next year along with improving the budget appeal process.
County Administrator Gary Hanson encouraged the board to pass it as well. He said the arguments against passing the tax levy and budget were nothing new.
“I’ve been around for about 30 budgets,” he said. “It is not unusual at all … [for people] to say they don’t like the process and this is last minute and you’re rushing it through.”
Since county officials put the budget on public display in September, there have been several changes made through the appeal process.
Peter Stefan, county finance director, said the State’s Attorney’s Office requested a full-time secretary position. Because of budget constraints, two part-time secretary positions were budgeted instead, with a cost of no more than $27,000 to cover salaries and expenses for Social Security and Medicare.
Several funds for county services will see a decrease in funding from property tax levies. Funds for Senior Services, Public Health and Veteran’s Assistance will have a combined reduction of $85,000. Stefan said these funds are capped at the maximum tax rate and can receive no more funding, while other funds such as the Mental Health Fund can receive more.
The fiscal 2014 budget is viewable online at shawurl.com/vr4.