Local county's general fund could run dry by summer

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Reporter - Kendall Downing

JACKSON COUNTY, Ill. - Money in a local county's general fund may dry up by this summer unless board members take action now. Jackson County leaders cite a number of reasons for their financial problems.

Increasing employee healthcare costs pulled more than $700,000 from the budget. Then there's a loss of property and sales tax revenue, as well as delayed payments from the state of Illinois.

The budget may be $4 million in the red by the summer months.

"We've got a cash flow problem," said Greg Legan, County Finance Committee Chair.

That's one way of putting Jackson County's money woes. But in layman's terms it means the county may not have a dime without some belt tightening.

"It means no money in the checking account," said Legan, "We didn't get here all at once. It's taken years. And it's going to take years to get out of it."

Dottie Miles is the director of Jackson County's Ambulance Service.

"There's always some uncertainty. This year may be a little more than normal," she said.

She said her agency is used to the budget crunch. They've cut office positions and adjusted ambulance schedules over the years.

But given these circumstances, she's not sure what to expect.

"It's just a matter of waiting and seeing what decisions are made," she said.

So how could the county get its finances in line?

Legan said board members are considering a number of options, ranging from slicing the budget midyear to putting a hold on capital improvements and purchases and even asking departments to pick up healthcare costs.

"We'll get through this, but it's going to need everybody's cooperation," he said.

The Jackson County Board will hold a special day-long meeting on Saturday, April 6th to try and sort out their financial situation. The meeting will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the county courthouse in Murphysboro.

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