Struggling county considers raising property taxes and laying off county employees

PERRY COUNTY, IL — A southern Illinois county is facing layoffs and higher property taxes because of a financial state of emergency.

As Local 6 reported last month, the Perry County Board was considering more than $1 million in budget cuts. A number of residents asked the board to reconsider at a meeting April 18.

Monday, Perry County Treasurer Mary Jane Craft said she isn’t sleeping well, because the county needs money fast. “We basically need $1 million in the month of May just to meet payroll and to pay what bills we have left,” said Craft.

That’s money the county doesn’t have. “If we just meet payroll and not our bills, we still need $400,000,” said Craft.

Recommendations from the consulting firm the county hired could help it get back on track, but it won’t be easy. They would need to raise property taxes — something Perry County resident Kevin Kellerman doesn’t support.

“I don’t feel that the taxpayers are the ones that put this in jeopardy,” said Kellerman.

If the recommendations are approved, some county employees could be out of a job or be forced to work shorter work weeks. “A lot of people’s livelihoods are here. They have house payments, they have car payments, and we have to worry about our employees,” said Craft.

Kellerman and Craft said the county must consider those tough options.

“I think they need to start laying people off, cut back on the payroll. That’s what we all have to do. I don’t think taxpayers should be responsible for that,” said Kellerman.

“Both needs to happen, because we don’t have the money coming in,” said Craft.

Time is money, and the county is running out of both.

The county board will next meet at 4 p.m. on May 13 to vote on those recommendations. Craft said Perry County has enough money for its first payroll this month. The second payroll is up in the air.