By RORYE O’CONNOR
MT. VERNON — —
The Jefferson County Board on Monday passed a $12.78 million budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.
The budget is about $80,000 less than the Fiscal Year 2011-2012 budget, which was $12.87 million.
The Jefferson County Board tentatively approved the $12.78 million budget during the September meeting, with board members Jeremy Hall, Curt Grothoff and Ted Buck voting against the budget as it stands.
Hall had the lone no vote Monday night, but did not speak up during the meeting as to why he was voting against the budget.
White said he asked board members if there were any reasons they should not pass the budget, or any remaining concerns anyone had.
Hall said Tuesday that he felt at the late stage of the budget process that speaking up would be perceived as “grandstanding.”
“This was my first experience going through the budget process,” he said. “I was concerned that we seemed to rush through it without doing our due diligence as a board. I thought we could have been more conservative on some things, such as the $15,000 for tablets. There were a few line items I thought we could have trimmed, but it was clear to me (the budget) was going to be passed by an overwhelming majority.”
He said he was concerned about some increases in officeholders’ line items that didn’t have explanations, but did not contact the officeholders in question.
“That’s my mistake,” he said. “It all happened so quickly. I hope to get another chance to go through this process, because I learned a lot.”
Hall said his biggest concern was the possible effect turning Second Judicial Circuit probation duties back over to Franklin County could have on the budget.
“On paper it’s a wash,” he said. “But if a court somewhere decides that we have to pay the probation regardless of reimbursements, that could leave a huge gap in our budget. I think we should have discussed potential budget implications before we voted.”
Board member Don Rector said Monday that he doesn’t remember ever approving a budget this early in his tenure as a board member, which began in 1990.
Board Chairman Robert White said the board officially began preparing the 12-13 budget in June.
He said initially, board members felt some budget requests were “overblown,” but a three-part process of trimming the budget by himself, the Fiscal Committee, and finally, the full board, cut it down enough to please most board members.
“John Keele and I got through the first phase of that,” he said. “We know the board, we know their priorities, the things people have had concerns with, like the correctional officers and deputy.”
White said he was “pleasantly shocked” to find that when voting on the tentative budget, most board members were satisfied.
“Only Robert Knutson had questions then, and to my knowledge, nobody called the officeholders to ask them about anything,” he said. “By the time we got done making adjustments, everybody was pretty pleased.”
White said the $80,000 reduction in the budget was partly due to the expiration of several grants.
He said the budget will be reduced by about $800,000 because of Monday’s decision to return Second Judicial Circuit probation responsibilities to Franklin County, but the budget will not need to be reopened.
White said last year the county began to set aside money for economic development with $10,000 promised, and that continued this year with $35,000 earmarked for study development, should it become a possibility.
“I hope to see that trend continue to grow,” he said, adding that it is a comfort to have the funds set aside in advance for development opportunities. “The state of Illinois puts more and more pressure on us to get it done, but you can’t always count on the state for help. We’ve got to create our own luck down here, we’ve got to be willing to pay for it.”