MORRIS – Grundy County is taking the first step in preparing for looming budget reductions by instituting a hiring freeze.
The Grundy County Finance Committee positively recommended a temporary hiring freeze to the full County Board during Monday’s finance meeting. The County Board will vote on the freeze at tonight’s full board meeting and is anticipated to approve the initiative.
“I think this is the right thing to do, especially with what we’re facing,” committee member Chris Balkema said Monday.
The hiring freeze would go into effect immediately after passed by the County Board, but it would not pertain to positions that are currently in the process of being filled, such as the internet technology director, Grundy County Board Chairman Ron Severson said.
“I specifically made a promise to the technology committee to deal with that,” Severson said.
However, any positions that become vacant in the future will most likely be filled through attrition, Severson said.
“There may be some places where attrition may be the best thing,” Severson said. “A good example is the land use director position.”
Current county administrator Heidi Miller was the former land use director, but her position was not filled when she transitioned to administrator. Instead, Miller has extended her administrative duties to fulfill the duties of land use as well.
“Sometimes you’ve got to take on more work not take more money,” Severson said.
The hiring halt stems from the potential major loss of more than $1.8 million in tax revenue next fiscal year due to controversial taxing strategies used in Channahon and Morris.
The two municipalities were sued by the Regional Transit Authority, which alleges that Channahon and Morris diverted a “significant amount” of tax revenue from Cook County. The two cities house purchasing offices for major companies – based outside of Grundy County – so those companies can take advantage of the Grundy’s low sales tax rate.
Since those taxing strategies have been ruled unconstitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court last year, the county stands to lose all of the sales tax revenue generated from those sales.
“This is not something we’re instituting because we are mean people,” Severson said. “We’re doing this because we are faced with a major revenue loss and we need to act. This is just a first step”
Related to recouping the potential loss of income, the finance committee also discussed scrutinizing current county employee salaries, including those of county board members.
The committee briefly discussed freezing salaries, as well, which will be discussed more at the next finance meeting.
“We need to look at all positions,” Balkema said. “I’m not sure if we should [freeze the salaries] or if we should take some cuts.”