Jefferson County departments hundreds of thousands of dollars ov - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Jefferson County departments hundreds of thousands of dollars over budget

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JEFFERSON CO., Ill. — Records obtained by News 3 show the general commercial account for Jefferson County is more than $300,000 overdrawn with more than $360,000 in unpaid bills piling up.

“We have a budget problem,” said Jefferson County treasurer Bob Watt. “There’s something wrong here. The numbers aren’t adding up.”

Watt says the general commercial account is in an umbrella under the county’s general fund, which contains more than $3 million, so the overdrawing results in money being diverted from other accounts.

“We’re not overdrawn in the classical sense,” Watt said. “We have money in the bank, we’re not bouncing checks or anything like that, but that line item has a limit.”

Watt says that limit is $300,000, which he’s reached.

“This matter has got to be brought under control,” said Jefferson County board members Sean Wilkey.

He calls the rising spending unsustainable.

“All I ask for is that we come out with a zero balance at the end of the year and we’re not here to make money, but at the same time, we cannot continue to operate with the numbers the way they are,” Wilkey said.

Among the biggest over spenders: the Sheriff’s Office and the Circuit Judge Office, each about a quarter million dollars over budget so far this year

Watt attributes most of the overspending in the Circuit Judge office to a high number of jury trials in the county this year.

He says  the county has had to outsource some legal representation because it doesn’t have enough public defenders to handle the number of cases.

Sheriff Travis Allen says his department isn’t as over budget as the initial numbers may seem.

He says the majority of the listed overspending is because of an error that left the salaries of five dispatchers, totaling $250,000, off of the budget proposal the county passed. 

“These are paid employees and we’re going to keep paying them,” Allen said.

He claims he brought up the issue with the county board almost immediately and that they understand the discrepancy.

“It’s unfortunate it didn’t get caught until later on,” Allen said.

He adds the high number of jury trials that is causing skyrocketing spending in the Circuit Judge Office Is also weighing down the Sheriff Department’s budget with overtime costs.

“When the judges request additional deputies in the courtroom, in my job as sheriff, I’m going to put those in there because everyone, not just the judges, deserve to be safe,” Allen said.

Allen is running against Watt for county treasurer this fall and believes Watt is playing politics.

“Mr. Watt trying to win an election is what this is, this is all politics,” Allen said.

Watt says he’s simply doing his job. 

“I wouldn’t care if he’s Republican or Democrat or independent, or the man on the moon,” Watt said. “The fact is the numbers don’t lie.”

He adds that if things don’t change, it could lead to some bills going unpaid.

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