JOLIET – A Republican-led Will County Board Finance Committee pushed forward a new spending plan Tuesday that does not identify dollars for the construction of the long-sought sheriff’s facility on Laraway Road.
Will County Executive Larry Walsh Sr. earlier this year agreed to set aside about $7.5 million in Regional Transportation Authority sales tax dollars to fund a portion of the new sheriff’s facility, which is slated for construction this spring.
But he also stressed that using large portions of the county’s RTA funds upfront for bigger projects – like a new Will County Courthouse – should be avoided.
Tuesday’s announcement from Finance Committee Chairman Mike Fricilone that he and other county leaders are no longer budgeting RTA dollars for the sheriff’s facility caught the county executive’s office off guard.
“I thought there was somewhat of an agreement on that, that we could get some of these smaller projects [such as the sheriff’s facility] done without paying [bond] interest,” said Nick Palmer, chief of staff for the Will County Executive’s office.
‘A new plan’
Instead, Fricilone said he has developed a new plan to finance slated major capital projects. But what that new plan entails won’t be known until a scheduled finance workshop Dec. 1 – after the final budget is approved by the full County Board.
Fricilone argued Walsh Sr. and others have repeatedly warned against the use of RTA dollars for projects other than roads.
This summer, County Board members had agreed on an “aggressive” timeline to build a new sheriff’s facility and county courthouse, but few details have emerged since then.
County leaders also held off Tuesday on voting on a resolution declaring the county’s intent to bond out for such capital projects, saying they needed more time to work out the details.
Palmer pointed out during the meeting that the only other logical option is to bond out.
Board member Ragan Freitag argued against that assumption, noting that “nothing is a plan until we vote on it.”
Spending plan savings, cuts
The new spending plan presented Tuesday also called for 1 percent, across-the-board cuts to the county’s various corporate funds.
The move allows the county to reallocate about $1.9 million in revenue toward the sheriff’s overtime budget and to give the county more cushion in its contingency budget – both of which Walsh Sr. did not fund in his proposed budget earlier this year, Fricilone said.
The county is now budgeting $2 million for the sheriff’s overtime, Fricilone said. The sheriff’s office plans to hire seven new correctional officers. Hiring more full-time officers should cut back on those costs.
Fricilone notes those savings are coupled with an estimated $1.34 million in additional revenue that stems from a tax levy that includes new construction.
Recycling program cuts
Will County Land Use Director Curt Paddock raised concerns Tuesday about the newly proposed $150,000 reduction to the recycling program’s $350,000 budget.
“I simply want to point out the implications of that. There would be significantly fewer collection events. I think you’re all pretty well aware of the high demand for these types of events and their popularity with constituents,” he said.