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Local News

State budget solution could become local problem

Cities and villages would lose share of income tax revenue

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget cuts could mean big cuts for cities and villages, too.

Rauner has proposed cutting in half the amount of money municipalities get from the state income tax. Cities, villages and counties, too, would take a hit if the proposal goes into effect.

Will County would lose $5 million.

“Good gosh, losing that much would be unbelievable. I mean, how do you make that up?” Will County Executive Larry Walsh Sr. said. “It’s not only devastating to us, but it would be devastating to everyone in Will County.”

The 30-plus local governments spread throughout Will County would lose about $54 million under Rauner’s plan, according to figures provided by the Will County Governmental League. That’s money local governments depend on for basic operations, Walsh Sr. said.

“We’re not talking about frills. We’re talking about basic community service. Police, fire, roads, maintenance, things like that,” Walsh Sr. said.

‘That’s 66 police officers’

Joliet would lose nearly $6.7 million.

City Manager Jim Hock said that amounts to less than 4 percent of the city’s $180 million general fund. But, he added, “That’s 66 police officers or 66 firefighters.”

Rauner’s predecessor, Pat Quinn, also proposed cutting the local share of income tax dollars to bolster the state budget. He never did. But that doesn’t necessarily mean Rauner won’t.

“We don’t have a track record with this guy yet,” Joliet Councilman Michael Turk said.

The cut in what is called the Local Government Distributive Fund would have to be approved by a Democratic-controlled Legislature. The fund would be slashed from $1.2 billion to $643 million – a move Rauner says is needed to help get the state’s finances in order.

Potential cuts or
local tax hikes

Jim Holland, president of the Will County Governmental League and mayor for the Village of Frankfort, said the village, like many others in the county, would have two choices: Cut back on services or raise property taxes.

The village of Frankfort stands to lose about $800,000 if these cuts go through.

“We certainly understand the state has serious fiscal problems. We’ve all had reductions,” Holland said. “But to pass off the problem to local governments isn’t right when it was the state’s irresponsible fiscal management that got us here in the first place.”

Crest Hill would lose $1 million. Making that amount up in a tax increase would be a tough sell, City Manager John Tomasoski said.

“If we increase taxes and say this will provide additional services, the community could agree,” Tomasoski said. “But in this instance, we would say we need an increase, but everything would remain status quo. That’s a bigger pill to swallow.”

“I know the state is in terrible financial straits,” Lockport Mayor Steven Streit said. But, he added, “Municipalities have been very frugal and stay in the black, and now we’re the ones that have to pay for the mistake of [state government] spending money they don’t have?”

Lockport would lose $1.2 million. Plainfield would lose $1.8 million, or 10 percent of its corporate budget.

Plainfield Mayor Michael Collins said every village department could feel the effects. Services may have to be cut, and village jobs could be at risk, he said.

New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann said villagers will fight for the money because the cuts will affect residents. New Lenox would lose $1.1 million.

“I understand the governor inherited a mess, and I am happy to see he’s serious about wanting to fix the state of the economy in Illinois,” Baldermann said. “But with local governments, we’re the ones supplying the services to our people.”

• Herald-News reporters Felix Sarver and Vikaas Shanker contributed to this story.

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