MORRIS – After a lengthy discussion about county finances and potential budget cuts, the Grundy County Board decided to hold off on approving a hiring freeze that was positively recommended from the Grundy County Finance Committee.
Discussion at Tuesday night’s County Board meeting centered on the various ways the county could compensate for the potential loss of $1.8 million in sales tax revenue.
Members felt the hiring freeze was “rushed” and did not feel personnel cuts need to be made at this time.
“As a board, we need to make better decisions and I don’t want this fear passed on to our employees because we aren’t making better decisions,” board member Vicki Geiger said at the meeting.
The county voted to table the resolution instituting the hiring freeze until next month’s meeting when the Grundy County Personnel Committee will put together and present a list of key positions that need to be filled.
Currently, each county department is scrutinizing their budgets to look at where budget reductions can be made.
“I think by our next finance meeting, we’ll have a better idea of what can be offered up for cuts and exactly how much more will be needed,” County Board Vice Chairman David Welter said.
Additional revenues streams also were discussed including pay outs from recently resolved tax settlements, tax revenue from new county industry and potential revenue raised through new tax levies.
“I think this is bad, but we don’t even know if the $1.8 million is going to be gone yet,” board member Dick Joyce said. “I mean we have to prepare because it could be, but there are some things we can do.”
The board also discussed dipping into the county’s cash reserves, which are currently more than $8 million.
Based on recommendations from the county auditor, the county keeps roughly half of the operating budget in cash reserves as a sound financial practice, board Chairman Ron Severson said.
Finance committee chairman John Galloway suggested tapping into those funds.
“I mean, it’s taxpayer money, and it’s just sitting there,” Galloway said. “I don’t understand why we don’t look into that.”
Galloway also discussed the potential revenues that could be raised from a slight public safety tax.
The tax would be tacked onto the county’s current sales tax and would be reserved for funding public safety services.
“The auditor has told us a .25 tax increase would raise almost $1.8 million,” Galloway said.
As a whole, the board was not in favor of making staff cuts before looking into other options to bridge next fiscal year’s potential budget hole.
The county is preparing more information for next month’s board meeting and the next finance committee to get a better idea about budget constraints.
“We want to start this discussion now so if four or five months from now we are hit with this, we are prepared,” Severson said.