2021 Year in Review

Year in review 2021: Logan County ends the year in good financial shape

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[January 10, 2022]   As 2021 ended, Logan County government finances were in good shape.

In May, Adam Pulley of Clifton-Larson-Allen shared the auditor’s report for Fiscal Year 2019-2020 with the Logan County Board. The report showed an unmodified, or clean, opinion, which is the best opinion auditors give.

The cash balance at the end of 2020 was higher than usual due to approximately $11 million in bond proceeds. Expenditures were down slightly, and Pulley said as 2020 ended, the total fund balance of all county funds put together was $25 M. General fund expenditures were $8.35 M and $1.2 M carried over into 2021.

One of Pulley’s recommendations was for the county to improve the tracking of its many capital assets.

Logan County Board briefs: Logan County Courthouse renovations and other matters

By the middle of the year, the county received an infusion of American Rescue Plan Act funding. The American Rescue Plan Act was signed by President Joe Biden in March 2021 to help combat economic impacts of the Covid-19. Logan County was eligible for $5.5 M, which was to be disbursed in two separate $2.75 M installments. The first installment came through by fall and the second one is expected in 2022.

In June, the board approved a motion from Finance Committee Chairman Steve Jenness to use Bellwether as Project Administrator for the American Rescue Plan Act Funds.

Bellwether helps counties determine what they can spend the money on and file quarterly reviews. The federal government requires these reviews to prove what the money is being spent on. Bellwether charges the county an administrative fee of $10,000 for each installment, which comes out of the fund from the American Rescue Plan Act.

June 14, 2021-Logan County to receive $5.5 million federal funds to aid pandemic recovery

June 19, 2021-June Logan County Board Briefs

Over the summer and early fall, after department heads submitted their budgets for FY 2021-2022, the Finance Committee reviewed the budget to see what may be needed to offset a possible deficit.

Requests for ARPA funding had also been submitted to Bellwether and the county was approved to give one-time premium pay to non-union employees.

After some long meetings and extensive discussions, the Finance Committee brought the 2021-2022 budget to the full board in October.

At the October Board Workshop, the full board discussed the budget. At that point, when looking at revenue minus expenses, the deficit was going to be $821,679 without scaling back. When talking to the finance committee, Jenness said the county had similar deficits in previous years. The county anticipates a negative balance and after the audit finds, they expense more than necessary.

To lower the deficit the county was facing, one suggestion was to cut five percent of the budget of departments with budgets over $500,000.

The plan was to put 50 percent of the 5 percent cuts made to the departments into a contingency fund. The board could disburse money from that fund by a two-thirds vote.

The board was also considering a hiring freeze for all departments.

Board members and county employees had questions and concerns about the cuts and hiring freezes and how they might affect some departments and the whole county.

One concern was that non-union employees did not get raises last year and there was not a plan to give raises this year either. However, Board Chairman Emily Davenport said in her eight years on the board, last year was the first one they did not give raises.

Davenport said she understood the frustration but said the board did not give raises last year because they were not sure how the revenue would be especially with COVID. Jenness said there was a possibility of giving a premium pay from the ARPA funds, which would offset the increases non-union employees did not receive.

October 18, 2021-Logan County Board discusses next budget, deficit, department cuts and non-union employee pay

County employees also addressed budget concerns at the board’s October voting session.

Logan County State’s Attorney Brad Hauge asked the board to reconsider the five percent cuts. These cuts would affect both the Sheriff’s Department and State’s Attorney’s Office, which could also affect public safety. He thought the cuts may be unnecessary and felt cutting budgets over $500,000 seemed arbitrary.

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Others like Logan County Circuit Clerk Kelly Elias did not feel they had five percent to cut from budgets that were already bare bones.

Motions brought forward by Jenness for a vote related to cuts, a contingency fund, anticipated permit fees and hiring freezes. Some motions were amended after discussion.

Jenness also brought a motion off the floor to approve adding $400,000 in anticipated permit fees to a revenue line item. This motion included adding $400,000 to the Contingency Fund expense line item. Showing the fees as revenue and including them in a contingency line item allows the board to deal with unanticipated expenses by using the contingency fund.

After adding anticipated fees, Jenness amended the five percent cuts to zero percent cuts, which was approved.

Board member David Blankenship then made an amendment that contingency funds only be available in the fourth quarter of the year by two-thirds vote.

If dispensed earlier, Blankenship though it should require a three-fourths vote. He feels these funds should not be used for payroll expenses or bonuses but should be used only for emergencies to protect the long-term sustainability of the county and its employees. Though there were some questions about the amendment, it was approved.

The motion for hiring freezes was sent back to the Finance Committee for more discussion.

After a few more amendments, the board voted to put the amended budget on display for 30 days.

November 2, 2021-Logan County Board votes on budgetary issues, next fiscal year draft on display

At the November Finance Committee meeting, after questions and discussion about how the hiring freeze would work the issue was brought back to the board.

At the November Board Workshop, Jenness said he would bring forward hiring freezes on positions that did not exist before October 1, 2021, or any positions vacant since October 1, 2019. Any hiring would need to be by board approval.

When positions need to be filled, Jenness said the board would review them to see if filling them is justifiable.

There were more questions and concerns about the freezes and needing to have board approval to fill positions.

What Jenness said he wants to determine is whether the position is really needed or whether the department could run without it. He is not trying to stop offices from hiring. Freezes would not affect part time seasonal help.

In 2022, Jenness plans to compare how much Logan County pays employees in comparison to similar sized Illinois counties. He also plans to start meeting with department heads in January to go over their budgets.

November 22, 2021-Logan County Board to vote county hiring freezes and premium pay for non-union employees

At the November 23 voting meeting, the board approved finance motions that included taking the budget off display, hiring freezes and tax abatement ordinances.

Jenness also brought a motion off the floor for two percent raises for non-union employees for 2022. These were approved after some discussion.

Other finance related motions approved included a FY 2020-21 budget amendment, several annual tax levies and the FY 2021-22 budget.

The one-time premium pay from ARPA funds for non-union county employees being considered was sent back to the Finance Committee for more discussion. They will further discuss it in January.

At year’s end, the audited amount from FY 2020-21 rolling over into the new budget is $811,068.

The budgeted fund balance for end of 2021, beginning of 2022 is $18,552,808. The projected change in fund balance with the difference between revenues and expenses is $8,171,122.

Logan County Treasurer Penny Thomas said the numbers are higher due to the courthouse restoration funds that carried over from FY 2020 and ARPA funds with $5.58 million added in.

December 6, 2021- Logan County places flexible hiring freeze and approves fiscal year budget

[Angela Reiners]

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