$4.5 million budget approved

Edgar County Board gives go-ahead to tighter budget and unavoidable expenses

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Edgar County’s budget for fiscal year 2019, starting Dec. 1, has little breathing room between revenue and expenses.

The budget approved at the Wednesday, Nov. 28, board meeting shows revenue exceeding expenses by just $4,407. Some funds are increasing like the general fund, county highway fund, county aid to township bridge fund, federal aid matching fund, health department fund, extension education fund and mental health fund. Other parts of the budget like tort immunity, retirement and Social Security declined.

Overall, the county is seeking only $68,000 more from taxpayers than the 2018 budget, and the overall levy increase is 2.78 percent, which is well below the 5 percent required for a truth in taxation hearing.

In other spending matters, the board approved additional money for Midwest Engineering and Testing for work completed on the Prairie’s Edge improvement. County highway engineer Aaron Lawson said the firm went over budget by about $1,500 and the agreement to pay is needed so the highway department can get reimbursed for the expense. Prairie’s Edge was largely funded through federal money.

The board approved a payment of a little more than $19,000 to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) as an incidental take because the project to build a bridge over Sugar Creek on Staley Road disturbs the habitat of a rare salamander.

Lawson said the payment is in lieu of building ponds and other remediation measures proposed by IDNR. The payment for the salamanders will be split between the county and Elbridge Township.

Earlier this month a large insurance premium increase threatened to wreck the proposed budget.

Board members discussed the issue with Dimond Bros. Insurance representatives Austin Huxford and Misty Kern during the Nov. 26 study session.

“I had to beg to get them to drop the quote by $5,000,” said Huxford of his negotiations with the insurance company on behalf of the county as Dimond Bros.’ client.

Board chairman Jeff Voigt said the final $34,000 insurance increase was not pleasant but was manageable within the budget without a need to increase the levy request.

During the discussion, Huxford said parts of the county’s operations are satisfactory from an insurance standpoint, but the carrier is concerned by the status of the jail and the number of lawsuits brought against the county.

“Your claims history looks bad,” said Huxford.

He added the company wants to use a former Cook County sheriff as a consultant to audit the jail and also recommends a variety of online training programs for the sheriff department employees.

Sheriff Jeff Wood informed the county board he was contacted by a loss control specialist from the insurance company and has already started the employees on the online training.

The jail audit was another matter.

“About six years ago we had a professional audit done, and it was used against us,” said Voigt, asking why the insurance company cannot accept the annual inspections performed by the Illinois Department of Corrections.

A long negotiated three-way land swap between the county, the city and Prospect Bank was finalized during the Nov. 28 board meeting. A resolution was passed allowing Voigt to sign an agreement by which the county obtains two-thirds of a lot north of the jail where the former Vadas Auto Parts store was located, and the county is also receiving the property across the street that was once the former Floyd Hegg auto dealership.

Voigt said the deal, as he understands it between the bank and the city, means a city parking lot behind the jail that accommodated jail parking is getting transferred to the bank. The lot north of the jail and across the street will be used for jail parking after the redevelopment project is underway. The former Floyd Hegg property also provides the county with some flexibility as a potential site for the construction of a new jail, if that project can come to fruition.