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By Carmen Ensinger
The Greene County Board is looking at a positive budget next year to the tune of $279. The board met on Nov. 9 to hang the budget, but not before some discussion.
Hanging the budget simply means the budget is put on display for a month prior to its passage for everyone to look over, including those board members who were not on the finance committee who constructed the budget.
Board Member Mark Strang said he wanted to discuss the budget before he voted to hang it.
Board Chairman Andrea Schnelten said while they were open to discussing the budget and were not trying to hide anything, it was a lot to go through for just the hanging of the budget.
“It is interesting your perspective, because if you are not on that committee, you just entrust it to those people who are on the committee and then you are looking through it on your own,” she said. “But you are not privy to any of the conversations because of the way it is structured.”
Strang, who was formerly a part of the budget committee, said he still has an interest in the budget.
“What I would have liked to have had is maybe some highlights of what we are changing or what we are doing different other than just, ‘here is the budget – we are going to hang it tonight,’” Strang said. “Why are we doing certain things? Unless I can question them, I have no idea what is transpiring.”
Schnelten said that is what the month of November is for – to ask those questions.
“I always looked through it in November and brought my questions to the board in December before we voted on it,” she said. “Or, I would ask my questions of the finance members separately in that November time frame so I could get clarity. Rick (Ross) can give you the highlights, but there really wasn’t a lot of change.”
Ross said the only major changes took place in the State’s Attorney’s Office. They got rid of his legal secretary and his extra help.
The majority of the changes that are in there are related 100 percent to the Safe-T Act and how we need to set up our court system to be in a better position as it relates to dealing with that Act,” Schnelten said. “So, it was basically changing the structure of the State’s Attorney’s Office and changing the structure of the Public Defender’s Department to mirror the State’s Attorney’s Office and basically eliminating clerical staff across the board in those two departments and going to professional staff who can handle the influx of stuff that is coming in.”
Schnelten said, moneywise, the county really isn’t going to be out any more money due to the restructuring.
“What we did is we took the money from the clerical staff and put it towards the professional staff,” she said. “Then, on the Public Defender’s side, they are getting an $83,000 grant that will be able to go towards salaries and expenses relating to restructuring and we were told that we need to spend that full $83,000.”
Factored into this year’s budget is a pay increase into the worker’s contract, which resulted in a need to raise the budget accordingly. One board member asked where these extra funds came from.
“We had excess funds in the FICA and IMRF accounts and the County Farm account,” Ross said. “All three of them were way up on the plus side, so we took a little bit out of each of them to get us where we need to be in the levy.”