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County budget prospects brighten

September 28, 2018

KANKAKEE — In recent years, Kankakee County’s budgets have been bleak, with stubborn deficits persisting. Not so anymore.

On Wednesday, county officials said they projected a budget surplus of more than $600,000 for next fiscal year, which begins Dec. 1, a far cry from the deficits over the past few years.

The budget picture has brightened throughout this fiscal year. Originally, the deficit was projected at $3.4 million, then an amended budget reduced it to $970,000. Now, it is projected to fall to $473,000.

The deficit reached a high of $4.9 million in 2016.

At Tuesday’s county finance committee meeting, officials credited the recent sale of the county’s share of a juvenile jail in Will County as a major reason for the deficit reduction. The sale is expected to cut county spending long term. The county has estimated that it has overpaid for the Will County jail by more than $1 million per year.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” said Steve McCarty, the county’s finance director. “It’s quite a shift. It’s mind-boggling given what we have gone through.”

County Board member Michael LaGesse, D-Bradley, said he wanted to note the “cooperation we got from our union partners” on issues such as length of contracts and nonretroactive pay.

County Board Chairman Andy Wheeler, R-Kankakee, credited McCarty, saying he has put in a lot of nights and weekends to draft a budget. Hopefully, Wheeler said, it would be less stressful next year.

He also noted the budget was drafted without special meetings of county board committees. That saves money because county board members are paid $70 per meeting. With 15 members on the finance committee, it costs the county about $1,000 to hold a meeting if everyone attends.

The committee unanimously approved the proposed budget without any changes. It next goes to the county board.

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