Last night the entire County Board met as a "Committee of the Whole" to listen to our administration dialogue with us as to how to meet the current deficits and the forging of a new 2010 Budget.
Much of what transpired is available for viewing on the peoriacounty.org website. Also in today's JS by Karen McDonald. Also quotes from my interview with WMBD TV at 6:00 PM.
We are going to balance the budget in as fair a way as possible. We are still in a recession, a rather strange one, with the stock market having some hefty gains, while 15 million workers are on lay-offs or have been fired, the overwhelming majority from the private sector. My position is that administration and the board saw or were warned that the recession would eventually hit Peoria and when it did we had to make changes quickly. I personally was assured that we had a lot of safety valves.
As our Financial Officer, Eric Bush. outlined where we were in the \ downturn and speculated whether it would go up / as fast as it went down or would have a U shaped recovery or a shape described in the WSJ today, a part of both.
My opinion on the recovery; part of both with maybe a longer flat time frame marked with short lived ups and downs.
Governments seem reluctant to stop spending on non-essentials because they can not decide whether to go deeper in debt (sell more bonds) and have a world-class county (shades of our State and Federal Governments), or a safe-to-live-in ocounty with affordable fair taxes, a county healthy and clean, good public schools, compact growth, and jobs that pay a livable wage.
Options made available to county workers were early retirements, wage freezes, reduced wages, shorter working days or weeks, vacation days, layoffs or other actions to balance not only this years remaining budget but the budget for 2010 due to be presented to the board in November. For the board and administration? Stop spending for non-essentials. Do not raise taxes or take on more "iffy" projects. (the Museum and the $41 million BelWood) For administration itself; the same options as presented all others. Our administrator has also said he would forgo next years raise as did County Clerk Steve Sonnemaker and Treasurer, 'Tripp' O'Connor.
Board Member Bob Baietto asked that consolidation discussion and voter's review of the need of all elected positions in the County, be put off to another time.
We meet again this Thursday at the Peoria County Court House, 6 PM, fourth floor.