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Local News

County officials to consider hiring freeze during budget talks

Rising costs, decreasing revenue factor into potential cuts

The Will County Board's Executive Committee began talking Thursday about a possible hiring freeze through December, as the county works on its fiscal 2018 budget with lower-than-expected revenues and higher-than-expected costs.
The Will County Board's Executive Committee began talking Thursday about a possible hiring freeze through December, as the county works on its fiscal 2018 budget with lower-than-expected revenues and higher-than-expected costs.

JOLIET – Will County officials might do a hiring freeze in certain departments through December to help balance the county budget.

County Board Speaker Jim Moustis, R-Frankfort, said during a meeting of the board’s Executive Committee on Thursday that the county might need to consider a freeze because of several factors.

“I’m suggesting that the entire county – not just the executive branch – with exceptions, that we have a hiring freeze until we get a budget approved,” Moustis said.

Later this month, Will County Executive Larry Walsh Sr. will present his office’s proposed fiscal 2018 budget. Walsh’s chief of staff, Nick Palmer, said the proposed budget will be balanced, as always, and the board will analyze it and look to make tweaks.

The budget then is voted on in November, and takes effect Dec. 1 of each year. Cuts might need to be made to different departments because of rising costs – such as a health insurance increase of $2.3 million – that the county can’t control. There also are revenue losses, Moustis said.

Some operations, namely the Will County Health Department’s Sunny Hill Nursing Home, will be off-limits for a potential freeze. There is rapid turnover at the nursing home, officials said at the meeting, which requires consistent rehiring to maintain nursing staff levels.

“I understand there are crucial ones, like the nursing home,” Moustis said.

There are three or four new county hires in line for this month, which will not be at risk, committee members agreed.

Palmer said the Will County Executive’s Office is sensitive to the need to evaluate staffing levels, but suggested the board look at staffing levels in various departments as it breaks down the budget.

Palmer said several departments have shrunk over the past five to seven years. Chief among them is the Land Use Department, which has seen its demand for work decrease for a number of reasons, including technology advancements.

There was talk of decreasing personnel budgets for as many departments as possible.

“I believe there will be cuts to personnel budgets,” Moustis said. “Don’t hire, because you may not have the budget to maintain staff levels.”

One of the factors in the push for a hiring freeze is that the state approved a budget in July that reduces revenue to municipalities and counties across the state.

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