County puts off another transfer

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Board will continue to discuss its options on financial issues

By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

The Fayette County Board was ready to act Tuesday on two significant changes to the budget they approved just last month, one of those being another large transfer of funds to cover county expenses.
But, after considerable discussion, the board decided to OK just one budget change, using $76,000 of its monies to pay workers’ compensation expenses.
The board held off on another transfer of $250,000 from its capital improvement fund, giving members more time to consider and discuss their options to such a transfer.
At this point, the board has used in recent years about $2 million of the $5.5 million it received for its coal rights to meet payroll and other expenses.
Discussion on whether to OK another $250,000 transfer was initiated by board member Wade Wilhour, who said board members need to look at the county’s operations as it would their own businesses.
“I’ve been on this board for four years, and in those four years, we are 4 for 4 in transferring $250,000,” Wilhour said.
“You have got to personalize this a little bit, think of it as if it were your money,” he told board members.
“At some point, you’ve got to say, ‘No,’” he said, referring to the board’s other options, which include layoffs.
“It is not going to get any better. Have you seen anything out there in the state that is telling you things are going to get better?” Wilhour said.
“This money (that has been transferred) is not going to come back – it’s as good as gone,” he said.
“This is somebody else’s money we’re spending,” Wilhour said.
Board Chairman Steve Knebel also weighed in on the issue.
“When does the time come to say ‘no’ – that’s our decision.
“We’ve talked about it for a long time, and I’ve got to agree with Wade,” Knebel said.
Dean Bernhardt, referring to negotiations with unions that represent county employees, said, “A lot of things we don’t have much to say about, when you don’t get any cooperation on stuff.”
Knebel agreed with that point. “With anything, there has got to be a lot of give and take.”
Wilhour returned to the discussion by saying, “I think another point that hasn’t been discussed is that we have levied for more money in each of the budgets, and we’re still not gaining anything – we’re going backwards.”
When Glenn Gurtner asked what the board’s options are, Loy Staff said, “Create a smaller budget, but that takes cooperation.”
“But we’re going to be in for a fight,” Knebel said. “It’s one of those things where we’re just going to have to dig our heels in and see what happens.”
Not approving the $250,000 transfer on Tuesday does not mean the issue can be put on the back burner, Knebel said.
“It’s just a totality of things,” he said.
“If we pay salaries, then we have to borrow to pay our bills. If we pay our bills, then we have to borrow to pay salaries.
“Next month, are we not going to pay our bills or are we not going to pay personnel?” Knebel said.
“This board has got to decide, when’s the time (to do something). We have talked about it and talked about it – when do we decide?” he said.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting:
• The board approved a new contract with the Fayette County Health Department through which the FCHD provides the county with a solid waste coordinator.
The new contract, according to Gurtner, “is exactly the same as last year’s.”
Under that agreement, the county will pay the health department $1,500 a quarter and the FCHD employee serving as the solid waste coordinator will “expend up to an average of .15 FTE (full-time equivalent) of staff employee time and a minimum of .02 FTE of supervisory time.”
• The board approved a local agency agreement with the Illinois Department of Transportation for a bridge three miles north of Vandalia Correctional Center in Sharon Township.
The agreement calls for the county to chip in $18,200 on the $371,000 project.
• Fayette County Emergency Management Agency Coordinator Kendra Craig reported that Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel are working locally to finish up paperwork on its assessment of damage caused by a tornado in the St. Elmo area on Sunday, Nov. 24.