Winnebago County leaders seek budget solution

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- Winnebago county is facing an $8 million deficit, and they say they may be forced to cut a large part of some important departments to make up for it.

The county right now is informally proposing $4.3 million in cuts to the Winnebago county Sheriff Department budget. Department leaders say this will mean cuts to the amount of officers on duty to administer narcan, as well as cuts from their detectives and corrections bureau. Leaders say this is too hefty a price to pay.

"No other time that I've been Sheriff, have I been very very concerned for the public safety of the Winnebago County, Rockford region," says Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana believes, like many, that the County cannot continue in the direction it is headed. "I'm there, and understand the crisis situation that we're in, and the revenues that aren't coming in."

With a nearly $8 million deficit, the county is considering a $4 million deduction from the Sheriff Department's budget.

"They don't have the luxury of living outside of their means, and even if they use a credit card for a while, they can't use it forever," says Winnebago County Board Chairman, Frank Haney.

However, the department says they need all of the funding they receive. Right now, the Sheriff's Department operates on about $36 million a year. Many believe they can go back to the $29 million they used back in 2011.

However, leaders say that amount was affected by the recession and does not reflect the way the current budget operates.

"The county of Winnebago is broke, simple as that," says Gary Jury, who is on the Finance Committee for the Winnebago County Board. He is proposing that the county take 5-10% of funding from all departments to make up for the Sheriff Department's loss.

"5% would be $7 million, 10% would be $15 million," explains Jury. No matter what the solution, Caruana believes, the sheriff's department cannot be the one to take the hit.

"What this cut would do would be devastate this department," reflects Caruana.

Board members are holding a special meeting on Monday to discuss the budget deficit. They hope to have a finalized proposal at the end of that meeting.