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Local News

Joliet budget makers waiting on news from Springfield

JOLIET – The budget showdown in Springfield has slowed the city of Joliet budget process, although probably by just a week.

City Manager Jim Hock had planned to present a proposed budget this week, but said he wants more time to get a better idea of what kind of revenue Joliet will get from the state – and when it’s coming.

“I don’t know if I’m going to know much more in the next couple of weeks. I don’t think the state’s going to adopt a budget,” Hock said.

But reports from Springfield that the governor and Legislature could be close to releasing millions owed to Joliet and other cities prompted Hock to push off the budget presentation for a week.

Hock said he will ask the City Council to schedule a special budget meeting the week of Nov. 22 to 27.

Hock would not hint what might be in the proposed budget.

But Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said at a recent council meeting that his conversations with Hock indicated the budget could include “drastic measures.”

Asked what those might be, O’Dekirk said Friday he was reluctant to offer specifics before a proposed budget is finalized. But he did say the threat of losing money to the state’s budget problems could be a factor.

“With what’s looming in Springfield, I think we’re looking at the budget differently than we had in the past because we’re not sure what we’re getting,” O’Dekirk said. “We’re probably going to be more conservative.”

O’Dekirk said he did not expect any tax hikes, although the council has put off a proposed increase in water and sewer rates.

That suggests any adjustments made to adapt to revenue losses related to Springfield would come in the form of budget cuts.

Meanwhile, in Springfield, the House last week approved a bill that would release the local shares of Motor Fuel Tax funds, casino taxes, video gaming taxes and 911 taxes that the state has been holding since July.

Joliet alone is waiting on $6.6 million. Joliet officials also are concerned about a proposal from Gov. Bruce Rauner to reduce the local share of state income taxes, which would cost Joliet another $6.7 million.

Before last week’s vote on House Bill 4305, Rauner’s administration put out a memo suggesting he would support the measure. But Rauner and other Republicans also have proposed adding more spending to the bill for road salt and state-run veterans homes, among other things.

Democrats then put the bill on hold rather than sending it to the Senate for a vote.

State Rep. Natalie Manley, D-Joliet, a co-chief sponsor of the bill, said there is concern about what could be added to the bill, which was intended to distribute tax dollars due to local municipalities.

“My understanding is they are holding it on postpone consideration because we don’t want anybody messing with it right now,” Manley said.

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