Sheriff overspends budget without prior county board approval
Sheriff Caruana properly cautions that Winnebago County, especially Rockford, is in the midst of a violent crime crisis and that is why the board initiated, and some have continued to support the Justice Center bond restructuring, to provide additional funding to the Sheriff’s Office from the one percent Public Safety Sales Tax PSST.
The Sheriff’s Office, however, has not followed the county budget process, as regulated by state statute 55 ILCS 5, which requires a simple majority of the county board to adopt a budget but two-thirds of the entire board (14 votes in Winnebago County) to amend the approved budget prior to any excess expenditures being made.
Section 6-1008 of 55 ILCS 5 states that, “Any person who violates, or who neglects or fails to comply with the terms of this Division 6-1 budget process, commits a Class B misdemeanor.
The county board voted against approving the funds for the Sheriff’s Office to hire and promote deputies and correction officers (6 Ayes and 12 Nays) but the sheriff had already hired a number of deputies and correction officers based on what the sheriff said was authorization from individual board members and the Republican caucus prior to the budget amendment being voted on by the entire board.
The county is faced with a $1.6M deficit for this fiscal year, with over $1M of that deficit already spent by the sheriff without board approval, plus a deficit of $7M projected for next fiscal year’s budget.
The sheriff, in his two part Op-ed column last weekend, stated that the county board underfunded his current budget by $638,132 dollars and that the board carried over a deficit of $428,861 from FY2015 to FY2016.
The county board doesn’t create deficits. Department heads overspending their county approved budgets, without proper authorization from two thirds of the entire county board, create the deficits in violation of 55 ILCS 5.
The sheriff also blamed the county for not financing shortages in personnel that was charged to his budget for an arbitrator’s decision granting correctional employees $430,779 in salary increases and $78,214 for 911 personnel.
Whose budget should have been charged for correction employees and 911 personnel?
There was no mention of the promotions initiated by the Sheriff’s Office for 21 people with wage increases ranging from 10 percent to 72.6 percent for a total cost of almost $400,000 or justification for hundreds of thousands paid in overtime.
The $250,000 removed from the sheriff’s budget for supplies mentioned in the Op-ed wasn’t spent because the price of gasoline for vehicles was substantially reduced due to a drop in oil prices and money spent for inmate meals were reduced due to the sizeable decrease in the jail population.
In fact, the jail is currently only 55 percent full with 735 inmates and 198 corrections officers compared with 201 correction officers and 1018 inmates in 2012–an inmate population decrease of almost 28% with a decrease of only three correction officers.
Total staffing at the Justice Center has actually increased from 418 in 2012 to 437 in 2016, an increase of 7% with fewer inmates.
The Op-ed also states that the county “forced” the Sheriff’s Office to operate at a total budget deficit of $1.8M dollars. Since those deficits were over the budgeted amounts approved by the board, not one dollar should have been spent by the sheriff without the approval of a proper Budget Amendment by two-thirds of the county board, regardless of the reason for the expenditures.
Finally, the sheriff writes about the 15 consecutive years the county forced historic cuts on the Sheriff’s Office, when the actual figures show that the sheriff’s budget has increased to over $36.3M in 2016 from $18.2M in 2001 – 15 years earlier – an increase of 99.5 percent, plus the over $1M deficit spent by the Sheriff’s Office in 2016, and is projected to be the highest budget ever for the Sheriff’s Department.
The PSST wasn’t available until 2003, so the budget increased significantly that year.
The county has reduced its budget by $26M from $221.9M in 2008 to $196M in 2016 and the property taxes could have increased by $16M since 2011 – about $4M this year alone. But the county declined the CPI levy allowed under Tax Caps, while maintaining a balanced budget.
Neither Winnebago County administration nor the county board caused the sheriff’s deficits by not funding his requests. The Sheriff’s Office overspent their approved budget causing the deficits. The sheriff has the budget process reversed. Department Heads should not overspend budgets and then request approval for their expenditures!