DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin proposed a budget for the 2014 fiscal year that would reduce spending by $3.1 million compared to last year's budget during a Sept. 10 meeting of the County Board.
The $434.4 million budget is an exercise in "doing more with less," said Cronin, who has overseen $10.5 million in cuts since his 2010 election.
While Cronin acknowledged it was a "maintenance budget," that involved few program changes and did not affect property taxes, he believed the savings were still important.
"We're proud of what we've accomplished here. In years past, this would be the only thing to talk about, is the budget," Cronin said. "I guess people are getting used to the idea that we're cutting, that we're reducing the overall tax burden, we're reducing expenditures and we're reducing headcount. That's what we do here in DuPage County."
Cronin said he believes that the county excels at making "a tax dollar go very, very far" through partnerships with private agencies, shared services and outsourcing of county work.
Chief Financial Officer Fred Backfield said that the budget reductions are largely due to savings on capital projects and some commodities from last year, as well as personnel policy changes, such as restructuring pensions.
"The main thing is not so much that you cut three [million dollars], although it's nice to cut – it's the fact that you're not growing," Backfield said.
Backfield also said that the number of county employees stayed static, while workers received a two percent cost of living pay increase.
One place the county did see an increase was expected sales tax receipts. Last year, the county budgeted for a three percent sales tax collect growth, which Backfield said was "very conservative," in light of the still-recovering economy. The county ended up with a much bigger chunk of change at 4.5 percent.
This year, the budget is estimating an amount closer to historic sales tax collection growth, around four percent – nearly a $2 million change compared to last year's expectations.
"Next year, I think that most people would expect that there would be some general growth in the economy," Backfield said. "There clearly is some strength, at least in sales here locally. We do get a lot of folks coming into the county to buy, not just the residents."
Two budget hearings will be held to allow residents to weigh in on the budget before the Finance Committee and the DuPage County Board vote on it, according to county spokesperson Johnna Kelly.
The first of these will be held at 7 p.m. Sept. 24 at the City Hall of Warrenville and the second will take place at 7 p.m. Oct. 1 at the Elmhurst City Hall. The Board has until its Nov. 26 meeting to approve a budget for the 2014 fiscal year.
Cronin said that, ultimately, he believed that the shrinking county budget is a sign that the Board is doing something right.
"We're doing what people expect us to do – we are proving that government can be responsible and can be limited. And once again, we have a budget that does just that and we're proud of it," he said. "If anyone else out there in the world of local government across the state of Illinois wants to follow our lead, we'd be happy to work with them."