Perry County finances described as 'dire' by consultant

Bruce DeLashmit of Bellwether LLC makes recommendations to the board during an April meeting in Pinckneyville after an early review of the Perry County budget. 

PINCKNEYVILLE — The Perry County Board passed a budget Friday after declaring a financial emergency in April and proposing deep cuts to county offices.

The board's Friday morning special meeting was called to discuss two topics: Passing a budget and accepting the resignation of Board Chairman Jim Epplin.

Perry County Board declares state of financial emergency

The budget, the county’s third proposal for this year, was drafted with recommendations made by Bellwether LLC Consultant Bruce DeLashmit, who was hired to review the county's finances in April.

The budget DeLashmit helped to create had a $17,000 revenue-to-expense gap. The original budget the board proposed for this fiscal year contained $1.3 million in cuts.

DeLashmit had previously said his proposal was designed to "get dollars out of the corners and into" the county's general fund. He made several recommendations, including cutting labor costs by 25 percent.

Perry County Sheriff Steve Bareis announced two weeks ago he would lay off 14 employees. The County Board voted May 16 to raise fees for county clerk and recorder services.

Perry County Sheriff lays off 14 employees amid budget woes

Several county officials questioned how the numbers for their offices were created at meetings earlier in May.

Barbara Stevenson, administrator of Perry County Health Department, on Friday questioned central services line items for the rates the health department was being charged for payroll and claims services provided by the treasurer’s and county clerk’s offices. It was listed at $5,082 in the budget.

She figured the amounts and came up with a much different figure than the one listed in the proposed budget. According to Stevenson’s calculations, the numbers were around $704 for payroll and another $569 for claims processing.

“That’s a total of $1,273.40,” Commissioner Robert Kelly said.

Perry County Board votes to raise fees for county clerk, recorder services

Stevenson agreed to change the line item of $1,300. “I’d like to make it as simple as possible,” she said.

Becky Tracy, solid waste commissioner, had questions about the numbers for the landfill host fees.

“If you go back to how we’ve budgeted landfill revenue the last few years, you’re going to see that $250,000 would be a really good marker. $180,000 is too low. I think severely underestimating is just as bad as overestimating,” Tracy said.

“They need to be real numbers, so we can be transparent to everybody, taxpayers and employees,” Kelly said.

She added that they just negotiated a landfill host agreement, and she doesn’t want someone to tell her she has to do another one.

“I wasn’t consulted at all on this, and there’s nobody in the county who knows more about the landfill,” Tracy said.

The difference is $70,000, which Tracy said is equivalent to the salaries of two employees.

Commissioner Robert Kelly made a motion to adopt the proposed budget with the changes discussed. Commissioner Dallas Bigham seconded the motion. The budget passed with Kelly and Bigham voting in favor and Epplin voting against.

The board also voted unanimously to accept Epplin’s resignation, effective May 31 due to health issues.

Perry County Board votes to display a new budget proposal; chairman offers resignation

Epplin was appointed to fill a vacancy on the board in February 2007 and was elected in 2008. He is in his second term. He served as chairman from December 2008 to November 2009 and from December 2016 through May 31.

In his letter of resignation, he said he believes the county “has a bright future” and “will overcome its current financial difficulties.”

The board’s next meeting will be at 2 p.m. June 6.

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Marilyn Halstead is a reporter covering Williamson County.

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