Massac County budget crunch has more jobs in jeopardy

By Julia Bruck - bioemail

MASSAC COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - The budget crisis in Illinois has some more jobs in jeopardy. The state owes Massac County thousands of dollars, just like other counties in the area. But the lack of state payment has now forced county leaders to face some tough choices.

Massac County Board Chairman Jayson Farmer says the state's bill is some $300,000 and it continues to grow. He adds the problem is made worse, as it's never clear when the state will pay or how much will end up in the bank.

"It's really hard to know when they payment is going to come in each month and hard to make your budget because you might get a check for $54,000 this week," Farmer said. "But it might be six weeks later before you get another check."

Farmer says every two weeks the county must dish out $100,000 for payroll. But he says currently only $60,000 is in the county's bank account and payroll is next week.

"It's obvious if our fund balance continues to gets smaller, we can't depend when the money is coming in from the state, then we have to cut costs," Farmer said. "The only way to reduce labor costs sometimes is to reduce your labor hires."

Massac County leaders already tightened the purse strings this past spring. Some employees took pay cuts while others lost their jobs.

In the sheriff's department, a dispatcher and two deputies were laid off. Chief Deputy Ted Holder says burglaries and thefts have increased by 30 percent since then.

"The criminals out there know we are short handed, so that goes along with it," Holder said. "When they know that there are not deputies out on the road patrolling crime is going to go up."

Holder says the deputies still on duty patrol as much as possible but still have to answer calls. Meanwhile, the county jail is full and on weekends it's over capacity. Holder says they've managed to keep minimum services despite the cuts, so far. But says if there's another round, some tough choices will have to be made.

"We'll have to decide if we're going to keep a deputy on 24 hours a day, or are we going to have a jailer working by himself or do we keep somebody in the dispatch room to answer the phone 24 hours a day," Holder said.

The county board has called a meeting with all elected officials for Thursday at noon. Farmer says at the meeting they'll look at several options to cut back. He says some include four day work weeks and, if needed, possible job cuts.

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