Cities take a hit under budget passed by Illinois General Assembly

Cities take a hit under budget passed by Illinois General Assembly (William Hatfield)

Illinois is on track to having its first balanced budget in years.

The General Assembly adjourned for summer Thursday after passing the bipartisan, balanced plan.

While both sides said there are parts they are not happy about, they are glad a compromise was reached.

The plan, however, includes a cut to local government funding levels.

“We have enough on our plate without the state coming in and taking our money on top of it and exacerbating the issue,” said Bill McCarty, director of Springfield’s Office of Budget and Management.

McCarty said the budget would slash local government’s share of the income taxes.

Last year, due to the financial mess the state found itself in, they cut how much they are giving to local governments by 10 percent.

That was supposed to be a onetime cut, but the state decided to keep it in place – or at least part of it.

Instead of a 10 percent cut, it’s a five percent cut.

"Ten percent is about $1.2 million, so they cut that in half, we're looking at roughly $600,000 more than what we got last year on an annual basis,” McCarty said. “But the bad news is, they're still keeping $600,000 that they didn't do before.”

State officials are telling cities to follow their lead, tighten their belts and they'll be able to get through it.

McCarty said that's impossible.

"We can't go out and take somebody else's money, we can't do it the way you're doing it,” McCarty said. “You're taking our money. We don't have that option, we're the end of the line. So, if we need revenue, the only place to turn is the taxpayers."

The village of Jerome’s President Mike Lopez said he hopes lawmakers start inviting municipalities to the table more often during the budget making process.

He said that’s the only way the state will truly understand the issues that local governments are facing.

We all have the same issues regardless of the size of our budget. We have to maintain services we have to maintain employees, we have to deal with personalities and we have no luxuries like the state of Illinois did a number of years ago where you didn't pay your bills. We had to pay our bills or we did not get services rendered to us.

Lopez said if the 10 percent cut were to continue, the village would’ve had to start looking into cutting services.

Since that cut got reduced to five percent, Lopez said his community will be able to make it through their current fiscal year.

The budget passed by the General Assembly Thursday has to be signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner before taking effect.

In a statement released Thursday, he said he plans to take quick action to enact it.

Fiscal Year 2019 starts on July 1.

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