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County looks into budget cuts

SYCAMORE – DeKalb County Planning and Zoning Committee members used its monthly meeting Wednesday to “break the ice” on making potential cuts to a $73 million budget.

Ken Andersen, R-Sycamore and chairman of the committee, urged all committees to look for cuts and efficiencies to negate some of the projected $9.25 increase to the average homeowner’s county property tax contribution.

In the planning and zoning department’s proposed $453,400 budget, the department only has direct control over the commodities and services portion, which staff suggested increase by .09 percent from $21,347 to $23,500.

While department director Paul Miller said any reduction to that line item would be a “drop in the bucket,” Andersen said the cuts have to start somewhere.

“We have to come to the realization we can’t keep doing this,” Andersen said of increases. “I think the people are ready and willing to take a few service cuts.”

But committee member Pat Vary, D-DeKalb, said departments have made cuts and realized efficiencies in past years, and residents are getting a great value for their dollar from many departments.

She agreed members should to look for efficiencies, but that does not always mean financial cuts.

“Every year we have this conversation,” she said. “And every year [departments] are trying to be more efficient.”

But those efficiencies have not resulted in savings for taxpayers, said Charles Foster, R-Shabbona, who pointed out the general fund expenditures have nearly doubled in the last decade.

The general fund expenditures, which is the area of the budget County Board members control, has increased from roughly $15 million in fiscal 2004 to a proposed $27.4 million next year.

Foster said seeing the budget double in the span of 10 years is reason to look for cuts, no matter how small.

“I do think it merits taking a look at things,” he said.

While cuts to the planning and zoning department may not come in the .09 percent increases in commodities and services, Scott Newport, R-DeKalb, filed a written budget appeal asking the department to eliminate one full-time position.

Committee members did not discuss that appeal, but it could be heard at the next finance committee.

Representatives from the DeKalb County Soil and Water Conservation District also presented a budget appeal to the committee, asking for a $10,000 increase from the proposed $20,000 to $30,000.

Director Dean Johnson said the department already cut its only other employee and an additional $10,000 from the county would give the district just enough to break even as state support and other revenue sources have fallen off.

“This is something we really don’t want to do,” Johnson said of asking for the increase. “But we also want you to realize we’ve taken a pretty big hit.”

Committee members did not discuss the appeal at the meeting, but it could be discussed at the finance committee planning and zoning committee in October.

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