Board members continue to struggle with budget

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- Kicking the can down the road - that's what Winnebago County Board members say they are tired of doing with the budget.

With less than a week to come up with a budget for the county, many board members say they are at a loss as to how they can solve the nearly $7 million deficit.

Financial officers say the numbers don't lie, and those numbers will mean a lower credit rating for the county if we continue spending reserves that we don't have. A lower credit rating would mean higher interest rates when the county issues debt.

In the coming year, the state is predicting lower revenue for the county. Financial officers say the only way to avoid dipping into reserves spending is to keep the proposed budget exactly how it is, which includes around $5 million in combined cuts to 8 departments including Public Safety.

"A credit rating - we can work on that in the future. But to bring back victims is impossible. To bring back people that have been killed is impossible. We can work on credit ratings; we can work on restoring our reserve levels, but we cannot replace lives or the fear that people have right now," says Winnebago County Board Member for District 15, Burt Gerl.

"I know that there's a need in every department. They're not asking for things that they don't feel like they need. But the reality is that we just have to live within the revenues that we have and that we're going to have," says Winnebago County Board Chief Financial Officer, Carla Paschal.

If the board does not agree on the budget at the meeting next Thursday, the county can take a recess, and can extend it for about three months past the October 1st start of the budget year. However, board members all agree that they don't want this to happen.

Last year, Paschal says the county was facing a close to $2 million deficit. She says lower state revenue and some added fees over the past year is why we're facing a much larger number this year. That's why the County Financial Officer believes it needs to be addressed.