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County Board adds to the budget, property tax levy

Published: Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

SYCAMORE – The DeKalb County Board Finance Committee approved roughly $80,000 in additional property tax revenue for the fiscal 2013 budget at Wednesday’s public hearing.

The additional money, which will add staff to county departments such as the sheriff’s office and public defender’s office, would mean an extra $2.56 on the average homeowner’s property tax bill. The $2.56 increase is in addition to the roughly $9 increase the average homeowner should expect as part of the $73 million budget proposed in September.

The $80,000 increase could have been greater – roughly $205,000 – if not for a $126,000 budget reduction proposed by Charles Foster, R-Shabbona, that was approved by the committee. A $205,000 increase would have added an extra $6.40 to property tax bills.

Foster’s proposal was a collection of multiple smaller cuts in court services, the sheriff’s office, facility management and staff reduction in the clerk’s office.

And while he proposed those cuts, he was comfortable with some of the additions such as the hiring of a corrections officer for $84,000 to deal with the increasingly dangerous situation of handling more inmates with mental health issues and the hiring of an attorney for $73,000 to deal with the growing caseload in the public defender’s office.

Other proposed increases, such as a $5,000 bump in funding for the convention and visitors bureau the committee approved, Foster called “fluff” and an example of the cuts board members can find in departments.

“If we look at these departments, there are opportunities,” Foster said, noting the $126,000 in cuts that were found in his budget appeal.

Part of the reason the $5,000 was shifted to a property tax funded source was the suggestion of outgoing board member Riley Oncken.

Oncken, R-Sycamore, lost his bid for re-election Tuesday but still urged committee members to switch the additional $5,000 for the visitor’s bureau from the opportunity fund, a nonproperty tax source, to a property tax source so it would be an annual allotment instead of one-time payment. He previously suggested it come from the opportunity fund during his time on the economic development committee.

Oncken also switched his stance on an additional attorney for the public defender, saying the committee should approve a second attorney for $73,000 even though he voted against it earlier.

He said he did not approve the request for two attorneys earlier because he had to “save himself politically.”

“Based on the need I actually see,” said Oncken, who interacts with the department as a lawyer. “I think it is necessary.”

Ken Andersen, R-Sycamore, voiced his displeasure with the budget before the meeting, saying board members needed to do more to make significant cuts or spend more reserves to control property taxes.

The $73 million budget still has to be approved by the full County Board at its Nov. 21 meeting.

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