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New county task force focuses on budget process

A new McHenry County Board task force will develop policies aimed at smoothing out the upcoming budget process.

The Budget Task Force was created after complications arose involving the 2012 budget, according to Finance and Audit Committee Chairman Scott Breeden, R-Lakewood.

Board members in mid-November pondered whether to lower the tax levy weeks before the start of the current fiscal year. The board originally elected to keep the 1.5-percent levy increase, which is allowed under the tax cap law, only to vote on rejecting the increase the same night the budget was to be approved. The proposal to reject failed by a tie vote.

“We have major decisions to make and some of those have gotten put off in the past to the end rather than making those decision early on,” Breeden said. “Major decisions need to be answered early on so administration has a good, firm, straightforward idea as to how to complete the budget.”

The task force is not about micro-managing county staff.

“We’ve got so many people that are new to the process that they may not understand the (budget) process,” County Board Chairman Ken Koehler, R-Crystal Lake, said. “We put this task force together to discuss timely topics so that we can vet the stuff out ahead of time before staff gets into the nitty-gritty.”

The task force will consist of the heads of the County Board committees, or about half of the county board. They will meet monthly from February to May before recommending developmental policies for the new budget, according to county documents. All County Board members can attend.

“My main concern was being able to educate the other people on the board on the budget process,” Breeden said. “Not that most aren’t involved now, but I just wanted to set a precedence so that at the end of the year everyone felt they had a chance to participate.”

The group will examine the financial state of the county; review compensation programs for union and non-union workers, health insurance and other benefits; and discuss ways to keep the 11 or so committees engaged in the budget process.

“We have to be able to give staff enough time to develop a budget,” County Board Member Tina Hill, R-Woodstock, said. “We wanted to make sure we had more input from more people to discuss thing built into the budget we don’t know about.”

“We spend a lot of time talking about the budget,” Koehler added. “But when we come to a board meeting last minute and try to institute changes on the fly it creates a lot of problems.”

Meetings are scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Feb. 10, March 9, April 13 and May 11.

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