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Budget cuts mean layoffs in sheriff's dept.

The most recent round of Ogle County budget cuts will mean layoffs in the sheriff’s department.

After hashing over the numbers for four and one-half hours Monday night, the county Finance Committee approved an $11.7 million budget for 2010 General Fund, $1.8 million less than the 2009 total of $13.4 million.

More than $1 million will come from the five budgets managed by Ogle County Sheriff Greg Beitel, who oversees spending for the Sheriff’s Department, Corrections, Building & Grounds, Emergency Communications, and Ogle County Emergency Management Agency.

“I’m not happy,” Beitel said Tuesday afternoon. “This means cutting 17 full-time and eight part-time positions. We may have to take patrol officers and put them in corrections. It’s not safe for the public and it’s not safe for the officers.”

The remaining cuts came from the other departments which also fall under the General Fund and include the  County Clerk & Recorder; County Clerk Elections; Treasurer; Health, Education & Welfare; Regional Office of Education; Judiciary; Circuit Clerk; Probation; Focus House; Assessment; Zoning; Coroner; State’s Attorney; Administrator; Information Technology; Insurance; and Finance.

The cuts, along with dipping into the county’s financial reserves, mean the 2010 budget will balance without raising real estate taxes, county administrator Meggon McKinley said.

“The committee worked hard to see that taxes did not increase,” she said.

Staying in black ink meant taking $700,000 from the reserve fund.

The reserve fund stood at $4.5 million when the 2008 fiscal year ended last Nov. 30. However, dwindling revenues shrunk the reserve to $1.5 million by June 30 before real estate taxes were paid.

Almost $800,000 of the $1 million in cuts from the sheriff’s budgets were new reductions made Monday night in the wake of the refusal by members of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) to take wage freezes and rollbacks.

The committee asked all county employees in August to take wage freezes in the coming year in light of the county’s dwindling revenues, mainly from state sources.

Non-union and some union employees agreed to the wage freezes. However, FOP members, who fall under the sheriff’s umbrella, did not.

County board chairman Ed Rice said that FOP members, whose wages are part of their contracts, voted to reject the requested concessions to maintain the integrity of their negotiated contracts.

In response, the committee voted Monday to go ahead with a budget based on the money available, and to notify the unions by letter how many layoffs that will mean.

McKinley said departments whose employees agreed to the wage freezes will be protected from the layoffs.

The FOP represents employees in three bargaining units who fall under the sheriff’s oversight: sergeants and corporals; patrol and corrections officers, investigations, and a corrections clerk; and civilian employees, including clerk typists, telecommunicators, switchboard operators, cooks, maintenance personnel, and accounting clerks.

Beitel said that with their refusal to make concessions, the FOP members also expressed their willingness to discuss the issue further.

“I was hoping the two sides would sit down and try to work this out,” he said. “But it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.”

Union contracts dictate that part-time employees must be laid off first, Beitel said, and full-time must be laid off in order of seniority.

He said he’s looking at layoffs in all areas of the operations he oversees — maintenance, clerical, corrections and law enforcement.

Staffing corrections officers at the jail in crucial, he said, because of the federal prisoners housed there.

“I talked to the U.S. Marshal’s Office today to explain the budget cuts,” he said. “They told me they were already concerned about our staffing level at the jail, and if it decreases they will take their prisoners elsewhere. That could all go away and we can’t let that happen. We can’t lose the $1 million they pay us every year to board their prisoners.”

On the other hand, staffing jail with patrol officers leaves the county unprotected.

“We’ve got four patrol officers on duty now to cover more than 700 square miles and sometimes that’s not enough. The cuts will leave us with three and maybe only two on duty,” he said.

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