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Board chief: ‘We’ll have to weather the storm’

Hindered by lack of state revenue, unplanned costs, board OKs $375K interfund loan

HENNEPIN — The balance in Putnam County’s General Fund is less than needed, and in order to meet payroll and other expenses, the county board has approved an interfund loan until the next tax revenue disbursements are received in July.

During the board’s April 9 meeting, Treasurer Kevin Kunkel explained how the county found itself in this predicament.

According to Kunkel, one of the biggest impacts on the county’s budget was prior to its adoption, the state had told the county it would be receiving approximately $280,000 in Personal Property Replacement Tax funds.

However, six months after budget approval, the county received notice from Springfield that it would receive only $205,000.

“We also had a lawsuit with IVCC, which was dropped, but still cost $260,000 over four years,” Kunkel said.

“Both myself and the county clerk were court-ordered to get attorneys, so that was an expense that couldn’t be avoided,” he said.

Additional unavoidable expenses that helped drain the reserves were the approximately $360,000 in repairs at the courthouse, which included a new boiler, a new cooling tower, and outdoor work to repair masonry problems.

Putnam County Board Chairman Steve Malavolti said the 2008 increases in health care costs also impacted the General Fund.

“We’ll have to weather the storm,” Malavolti said. “We’re locked into this budget, and we’ll be working month to month to adapt, but we’re also going to be making some tough decisions before the next budget is adopted.”

Currently, the county faces $60,000 in payroll expenses with an additional $44,000 in other expenses. The balance of the county’s General Fund is roughly $53,000, and there’s approximately another $10,000 in the Illinois Fund.

To temporarily alleviate the situation, the board approved an as-needed, interfund loan of no more than $375,000 from the county’s Federal Aid Matching Fund until the next tax revenue disbursements are made in July.

To help reduce costs, board members reported they’ve declined mileage reimbursements, and the courthouse’s hours of operation were also altered. The board approved the change, which will have to courthouse open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday through Friday. Department heads were given permission to alter their schedules accordingly in order to serve the public, such as on Thursdays when court is in session.

This change in hours will save the county almost $40,000 a year, according to Kunkel.

Board member Duane Calbow, while acknowledging the seriousness of the situation, also looked to the positive aspects of the county’s finances. He cited the productive budget discussions that will ultimately be of benefit to the county, and also that the county has no long-term debt.

He reminded the public that the costs of the jail construction, which were expected to take 20 years to pay off, were settled in 12 years, and that the county has been steadily increasing its services to the public.

The board was asked about future revenue from the Enterprise Zone projects that are nearing the end of their tax abatement periods.

“Even with the Enterprise Zone projects which will be coming off of abatement, that revenue will still be a couple of years away. We still need to be proactive to stay ahead things,” Malavolti said.

The board was also asked about the possibility of a tax increase.

“It’s possible, but we don’t want to because we’re already so highly taxed. If we did, we’d have to justify it and show a need to the public. We’re going to be continuing to crunch a lot of numbers,” Malavolti said.

Other board news

• County Highway Engineer Pat Sloan reported the one bid received for the upcoming sealcoat work was 16 percent less than estimated. He also advised residents to slow down and exercise caution near the Bottom Road bridge. He said the rough surface near the bridge will remain that way for the next year.

• There will be an electronics collection event for county residents from noon to 5 p.m. on April 20 at the Toluca Public Works building.

• The board approved the request for the Lake Thunderbird Association’s annual fireworks display scheduled for July 7.

• Countyside Lawn Care was awarded the contract to mow and trim the grass at the Florid, Caldonia and Old Granville cemeteries.

• The trustee resignation, appointments and reappointments for the fire protection districts of Magnolia, Standard and Henry were approved.

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