Will County GOP leaders say budget is not ‘realistic’

Will County Republican leaders claimed the new budget presented by County Executive Larry Walsh is not balanced because it does not realistically include enough to cover overtime in the sheriff’s department.
In a Wednesday morning budget workshop session, county board members voiced some concerns about the $551 million budget, which Walsh presented as “balanced” at the Sept. 21 board meeting.

Undersheriff Bob Contro told the board that he has people on overtime “every day on every shift,” filling in for those on vacation, workman’s compensation or calling in sick.
The budget currently proposes $1 million for overtime, but Contro said he will be asking for more.

Board member Mike Fricilone, R-Homer Glen, who chairs the finance committee, said the sheriff’s department has spent $3 million in overtime so far this year.
It averages $2.5 million in overtime per year, according to budget director ReShawn Howard.
“The County Executive’s budget is not realistic given the overtime numbers,” said board Speaker Jim Moustis, R-Frankfort Township. “If you know you are going to exceed that amount, it brings the budget out of balance.”
The total amount requested by all departments was $212 million, and with revenues of $197 million Howard said, adding that there is “no way” the county could ever sustain those requests for money. She balanced the budget based on revenues, which decreased $600,000 from 2017, and the budget reflects the $2 million loss in state revenues, she said.

Moustis said the problem is not the budget, but “elected officials saying they do not have to pay attention to the appropriations.”
“This has really become a problem. Why have a budget at all?” he asked. “They overspend and we have to clean up at the end of the year. This is not the way to start the year.”
Fricilone asked for specific numbers from the sheriff’s office for salaries and overtime.
“We have nothing to hide. There is no fluff in our budget. We are not generating overtime just to generate overtime,” Contro said.
Suggested solutions ranged from hiring more officers to cutting the overtime.
Contro said when they hired five additional deputies there was a decrease in overtime, but there are also things they cannot control, such as homicide investigations. A recent missing child cost the department $24,000 in overtime, he said.
Democratic Minority Leader Herbert Brooks Jr., D-Joliet, said the sheriff’s department is “low-hanging fruit,” and he wants to know the overtime expenses in all departments.
County board member Steve Balich, R-Homer Township, said if the overtime amount is $4 million, it should be included in the budget to make it realistic.
Walsh also proposed eliminating the Public Building Commission and transferring that portion of the county’s tax levy to the financially struggling Health Department. The PBC, which no longer oversees building projects in the county and the city of Joliet, received about $500,000 annually from its tax levy.
But Moustis said the consolidation results in “no immediate savings.”
“You act like you are really doing something by eliminating the PBC but those expenses just come back to the county. It’s smoke and mirrors,” he said, adding that the only thing being eliminated is $150,000 in employee costs.
County board member Don Gould, R-Shorewood, said having the county do the work of the PBC is “more transparent” and should result in “some savings.”
He also supported transferring the levy from PBC to the Health Department, as Walsh proposed.
Officials will continue to discuss the budget at upcoming finance committee meetings. It must be approved before the start of the new fiscal year on Dec. 1.
Twitter @SusanLaff