County financial situation remains in crisis

Robert Blackford/Editor

The Mercer County Board made an interfund loan to meet expenses in December  2008, but Mercer County Board Chairman Tom Harris noted that the county's financial situation was only stable until the end of January 2009.

"Between fees and fines we hope to keep up. We are safe through January," Harris told members of the county board at Tuesday's Jan. 8, 2009 meeting.

The board borrowed money from its liability fund to meet expenses. That fund has about $1 million in it but the loan must be paid back by the end of fiscal year 2009.

"At the end of November we try to have $400,000 to $500,000 in the General Fund for payroll, buildings and services. When we closed out November in 2007 we had $409,000. When we closed out November in 2008 we had $15,000. We were virtually out of money at that time."

Harris said the board will ask voters for a one percent safety sales tax to fund issues dealing with criminality such as states attorneys fees, dispatch, probation. Money from the tax would go directly into helping insure the public's safety.

Harris said the county will be discussing the option of increasing the property tax from .27 percent to .40 percent at the next meeting of the board. That tax increase proposal could go on the April ballot as well.

Harris said the county's financial problems can be traced back to the sharp increase in the cost of doing business in 2007, especially the higher costs for fuel, and that fact that the State of Illinois is $100,000 in arrears in paying money to the county.

For more on this story, see the Jan. 14, 2009 issue of The Times Record.