PINCKNEYVILLE — Perry County Board of Commissioners had eight resolutions on its agenda for a regular meeting Thursday, May 2, but most of the people gathered for the meeting were there to hear recommendations from Bruce DeLashmit of Bellwether LLC.

DeLashmit was hired in April to consult on the county’s budget after the county board amended its budget proposal to show cuts of $1.3 million needed to balance the county budget.

DeLashmit reviewed the original 2018-2019 budget, the amended 2018-2019 budget and the budget for the remainder of the year.

The revenue to expense gap for the budget implementing Bellwether’s suggestions is about $17,000. DeLashmit told the board the margin is very small for any entity.

“Considering the amount of discipline it will take to make it through the next seven months of this year, each topic will have to have a champion to push it through,” DeLashmit said.

He added issue: The financial software used by the county does not match reports and budgets from each office.

“This does not give you the information you need to make sound decisions,” DeLashmit told the board.

DeLashmit is working with the treasurer to identify key reports and match them to the financial software. The board is making payroll contingent on fees and state funding. They should get a report from the treasurer at each meeting that shows this funding.

Another issue is the funds being used to pay certain expenses. For example, the time State’s Attorney David Searby Jr. spends as civil council for the county board should be paid out of the county’s tort fund, DeLashmit said.

Also, efforts to ensure the safety of the inmates in the county jail, including video cameras, prevent a lawsuit. Those costs also can be paid from the tort funds.

When a deputy brings an inmate to the court, he is acting as a security for the courthouse, which can be paid from the security fund.

Perry County Board declares state of financial emergency

“The goal is to save money from the general fund,” DeLashmit said.

He also suggested liquidating property the county owns. One of those pieces is located just west of the Perry County government building. One of the ideas being “kicked around,” according to DeLashmit, was to market the property as recreational property to people in metropolitan areas.

DeLashmit also recommended renegotiating lower prices for things like employee health plans and telephone services to pay lower prices. He said the services should be renegotiated every four or five years.

The Bellwether audit also found that some county departments were receiving payments that should go directly to the treasurer according to state law. One example was the fees paid to house federal inmates in Perry County Jail. The checks were being sent to the sheriff’s office. They would deposit checks and then have to write a check to the treasurer for that amount. The process could be streamlined and comply with state statute by sending checks directly to the treasurer.

“This is, in a nutshell, how to get dollars out of the corners and into your general fund,” DeLashmit said.

He also told the board he believes it absolutely cannot levy less in taxes than they need to run county offices. “In 2019 and 2020, you are looking at a significant increase in rates,” he said.

Along with a tax levy increase, DeLashmit told the commissioners that they should reduce their compensation for the remainder of the year, saying he served in the military where they lead from the top down.

“As of yesterday (Wednesday), there is sufficient money coming in to make the first two payroll cycles in May and some of the third cycle. The department heads have agreed to help,” he said.

The county requires $148,000 for each monthly pay cycle. The question is: What happens in June?

DeLashmit said it is apparent that the county cannot back its way out of the crisis. They will need to cut labor expenses by 25 percent. That can be done a number of ways, including reducing the work week or laying people off. However, a reduced work week will not accomplish savings unless the employees agree to not take PTO to make up for the lost hours.

He suggested the board contact the labor unions and prepare to begin negotiating.

Board Chairman Jim Epplin then opened the floor for comments.

Judge James Campanella said taking money from the security fund for any reason would limit is ability to make repairs to the courthouse. He has been using the security fund for repairs for many years.

“The budget is insufficiently addressing the need for repairs. What needs to be added is a capital fund,” DeLashmit said.

Julia Lunnemann of rural Pinckneyville voiced her concerns about laying off members of the sheriff’s office.

“If you lay off people from the sheriff’s department, we will all suffer, especially those of us in rural areas,” Lunnemann said.

The board’s next meeting is May 16 in the Perry County Government Building. At that time, the board will vote on measures to increase animal control fees and fees charged by the sheriff.

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Marilyn Halstead is a reporter covering Williamson County.

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