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$73 million county budget gets first look

Published: Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

SYCAMORE – The DeKalb County Finance Committee had its first glance at a proposed $73 million budget Wednesday for fiscal 2013.

The proposed budget is roughly $6 million less than last year because of a decline in federal grants and plummeting property values.

The county’s assessed value is expected to decline by almost 9 percent, meaning the value of an average $200,000 house will fall to $182,000.

Despite the declining property values, a small increase in the total property tax levy is expected, jumping from $19.6 million last year to $19.9 million.

The county’s portion of the average property tax bill on a $200,000 house losing $18,000 in assessed value is expected to increase from $646.29 to $655.04

The tax rate is projected to increase from 96 cents for every $100 of assessed value to $1.07 for every $100 of assessed value.

Charles Foster, R-Shabbona, said even if the County Board makes budget cuts, members cannot claim taxes have gone down.

He pointed to the increase in the tax bills for the average $200,000 house, which has moved from $569.27 in 2009 to the $655.04 it is at now despite losing value.

“It is what it is,” Foster said. “Dollar for dollar it’s gone up. … We can’t state that it’s gone down because it hasn’t.”

Deputy County Administrator Gary Hanson, who presented the budget, said the board, as all government units, is in a difficult position because revenues are down and demand for services are high.

“Your demand for services increase in a bad economy,” he said.

The increase is not enough to stop losses in certain departments, including public health, senior services and veteran’s assistance, all of which will have between $45,000 and $54,000 less in property tax money in fiscal 2013.

The county is again projected to spend about $900,000 of its reserves to keep the budget balanced, which would drop reserve levels from $10.5 million to $9.6 million.

The county’s outside auditor, Sikich LLP, recommended $8.06 million as a healthy baseline reserve.

The decrease in the overall budget has squeezed departments, which are looking for relief from board members who could still decide to grant financial requests during the budget process.

The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department requested the reinstatement of two previously cut positions with the addition of a corrections officer and telecommunications operator for a total of $157,000.

The preliminary budget suggests reinstating only the telecommunications operator for $73,000.

The public defender’s office had the largest request at $267,000 for seven different personnel changes, including new attorneys and promotions.

The preliminary budget denies most of those requests and instead dedicates $50,000 for temporary help as needed.

Board members as well as department heads can make requests in the next couple of months to reduce or increase the budget.

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