S.A.F.E. attacks county board on sheriff’s budget – lack sufficient information

The S.A.F.E. group is again personally attacking those members of the Winnebago County Board, who are trying to hold the line on property taxes to balance a 2018 budget deficit of $6.9 million.

Our board members are accused of being against public safety simply because some members disagree with S.A.F.E’s position on the amount of funding for the sheriff’s office, basing their position on data prior to the time Sheriff Caruana took office.

Let’s look at facts, not threats!

The starting point for the sheriff’s 2018 budget discussion logically centers on the fiscal years 2015 to 2018, pertinent to the current sheriff’s term of office – not prior years on monies expended by previous sheriffs.

The county’s total revenue in the General Fund and the Public Safety Sales Tax PSST has remained relatively constant at $77 million from 2015 through projected 2017.

Although revenues remained relatively constant since 2015, the county board has approved $1,298,921 in budget amendments for the sheriff’s office. Actual expenditures for the Sheriff’s budget increased by $3,142,050 from fiscal year 2015 to 2016, and budgeted expenditures for the current year (2017) increased by an additional $358,454.

In 2016, the county board’s vote (13-5) to refinance the Justice Center bonds redirected $3 million annually to the sheriff’s office using the PSST fund to increase the number of deputies on patrol and officers in the county jail.

Also, $5 million was approved in 2016 to upgrade the county’s communication system to allow transparent communication between the county, its deputies and the Rockford Police to increase public safety.

Does this funding in just three years sound like the county board is against public safety?

Separate from the Sheriff’s Departmental budget are the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund IMRF of $3,627,926, FICA and Medicare of $1,841,220 and sheriff’s vehicles and related equipment and repair expenses of $1,752,844 paid from other funds.

There are some examples in the sheriff’s office where reductions might least affect public safety.

Of the top 30 paid employees in Winnebago County for 2016, 18 are employed by the sheriff’s office with a total salary of $2,324, 149.61.

The sheriff has four deputy chiefs with a total salary of $553,447.32 – actuals for 2016. The sheriff also has a chief deputy paid $133,302.54 in fiscal year 2016. These salaries do not include the benefits previously mentioned.

The sheriff has 2 employees assigned with financial duties for $159,925.90 and 12 administrative assistants/secretaries paid a total salary of $462,774.05 in fiscal year 2016. The duties of some of these employees could be consolidated with Central Services to increase efficiencies and decrease costs.

The sheriff maintains nine bank accounts that are not maintained in the county’s central records during the fiscal year. There is no external reporting provided by the sheriff nor does he provide budgets to the county board for expenditure from those accounts even though county administration has requested that information for fiscal year 2018.

The total balance of these accounts was $1,156,053 as of May 31, 2017, total receipts through May 31, 2017 were $480,036 and receipts for fiscal year 2016 were $876,703. These funds are expended without county board approval – and these amounts were reported by the County Auditor in their report dated August 16, 2017.

Budget deficits have reduced the PSST and General fund balances by $11 million the past 12 years. This year’s deficit will reduce the balance by over $2 million more to a point that our credit rating by Moody’s will suffer, resulting in our bonds requiring higher interest rates to be paid by taxpayers.

The Illinois General Assembly in 2017 has reduced payments to the county by $2.3 million and our health insurance reserves have been reduced to zero this fiscal year. The aforementioned expenditures don’t include an estimated 3% increase in 2018 in arbitrated wages, promotions and replacements for those promoted by the sheriff!

The sheriff’s portion of the public safety departments funded by the General and PSST funds have increased from 51.87% in fiscal year 2015 to 57.87% in fiscal 2016 and now 58.69% budgeted in 2017.

The sheriff’s fair-share reductions based on these figures against $6.9 million dollar deficit would be approximately $4 million.

Maybe S.A.F.E. could direct the board as to what services should be cut if the sheriff’s budget isn’t reduced by that amount. I’m sure they know better than the county board!


Comparables for County Sheriffs (2017)

Winnebago – 398 employees) – 1 Chief Deputy, 4 Deputy Chiefs –Budget $37,992,194 – Population 285,873

McHenry – 369 employees – 3 Chief Deputies -Budget $33,471,163 – Population – 307,004

Peoria – 170 employees – 1 Chief Deputy –Budget $15,768,454 – Population 185,006

Kane– 289 employees –Budget $30,062,241 – Population 531,715 residents