Perry County: factors contributing to budget shortfall - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Perry County: factors contributing to budget shortfall

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UPDATE: Commissioner Robert Kelly says the board meeting at the government building on Thursday April 25  to discuss Bellwether's findings so far and its first suggestions for balancing the budget has been moved to 6:30 p.m. 

PERRY COUNTY (WSIL) -- For the moment, Perry County employees do not need to worry about layoffs or a shortened work week. 

The board decided Tuesday to hire a third-party consulting firm, Bellwether Advantage, to help balance the budget instead of making $1.3 million in cuts. 

However, many have wondered how the county ended up in this financial situation in the first place. During budget discussions over the past month, it seems there are two points board members, department heads, and residents can agree on.

One: the budget issue didn't happen overnight, and two: it's not any one person's fault. Instead, the financial situation is the result of the perfect storm of downfalls. 

Treasurer Mary Jane Craft said part of the issue is businesses leaving the area. Those include Technicolor Universal Media Services (TUMS), which closed its doors 12 years ago, and coal mines. 

"Everything was pretty much thriving with the coal mines being here," Craft recalls. "Those employees go to the stores and they buy stuff, so that money brings in tax dollars to us." 

Josh Gross says during his last week as county clerk, that the county failed to save up emergency money. "We were always kind of on thin ice. Now when the budget impasse happened that's where it kind of went into hyper drive," he explained. 

The county started making budget cuts in the 2015-2016 fiscal year and have continued to do so. 

Sheriff Steve Bareis says those decisions led to layoffs in his department and compensation changes, "Time on the books. Can't get a raise so we're going to give you another personal day. Those types of things." 

Gross added that all issues came to a head this year, "We saw some decreases in some other revenue sources along with the state's portion, and expenses, as you know, just continue to go up." 

The county's half-a-cent sales tax increase also failed to pass this April. 

There will be a budget meeting Thursday April 25 at 6 p.m. to discuss Bellwether's findings so far, and its first suggestions for balancing the budget. 

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