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Carol Stream

DuPage Water Commission cuts debt by two-thirds since 2011

Three years after a series of accounting errors lead to a $40 million gap in presumed reserves and subsequent overspending, the DuPage Water Commission is one step closer to paying back its debts.

In 2011, the Commission had an outstanding debt of $142 million after the accounting debacle, according to a news release from the county. That total has been reduced to $54 million, with an additional $14 million in payment expected by the end of the fiscal year. The Commission has also reduced its operating budget by $6 million since 2011, a decrease of about 28 percent.

County Board Chairman Dan Cronin, who appointed board member Jim Zay as water commissioner, said in a statement that Zay's leadership has "helped this crucial agency make a remarkable turn-around from the crisis it was in three years ago."

Part of a presentation given to the County Board at its Oct. 8 meeting touched on the elimination of a quarter-cent sales tax that pulls funding from 25 area communities to partially fund the commission, but is set to expire in 2016.

That expiration, which Cronin helped spearhead when he was a senator in the Illinois General Assembly, will help transition the Commission to a water utility system instead of a tax-funded body.

"Lowering the sales tax in the county will force greater financial independence and accountability at the Commission, as well as help our residents and businesses," Cronin said.

Zay said that despite hiring new leadership staff and strengthening accounting practices to increase responsibility and organization, the Commission's work was not done.

"The Water Commission has come a long way in a short amount of time, but we are still in the process of ensuring a successful future," he said.

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