McLean County names Erika Reynolds next state’s attorney; presents $127 million budget
The McLean County Board on Thursday unanimously approved the appointment of prosecutor Erika Reynolds as the next state’s attorney.
The board also got its first look at the county’s proposed 2023 budget during its regular monthly meeting.
Reynolds was chosen from among three candidates who interviewed with the board’s executive committee on Monday. McLean County Assistant State’s Attorney Aaron Hornsby and Woodford County Assistant State’s Attorney Erik Gibson also applied for the job.
Reynolds replaces Don Knapp,who will be sworn in Friday as a circuit judge after winning a Republican primary for the seat in June. Reynolds, who will serve the remaining two years of Knapp’s term, has been in the charge of the crimes against children division in the McLean County State's Attorney's office.
She said one of her first goals is to bring stability to an office that's seen a high turnover rate among prosecutors over the last decade. She said it's also been harder to attract new attorneys, adding it's not a problem unique to the state's attorney's office.
“Law school admission is down, bar (exam) passage rate is down, applicants are down in the legal sector, but I don’t think that’s unique to the legal sector at all,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds said she's looking for ways to attract and keep more prosecutors to the office and has some ideas she will implement, but would not elaborate.
Reynolds is also McLean County's first female state's attorney, a distinction she deflected when a reporter asked about it.
"I'm just ready to get started in the job," Reynolds said.
The state's attorney's office also will grow next year when the Safe-T Act takes effect. Reynolds said the criminal justice reform measure will force prosecutors to shift resources and prepare for more pretrial delays.
“I do anticipate it adding to the (court) backlog and people trying to delay their case going to trial,” Reynolds said. “I would also anticipate issues coming up with people re-offending that would not otherwise be re-offending because they would have been in the custody of the McLean County Jail."
Reynolds estimated about half of the county jail population will be released on Jan. 1 when cash bail ends in Illinois.
Also Thursday, the county board got its first look at the proposed annual budget. The $126.8 million spending plan is down from this year’s $129.2 million budgetbecause of a drop in COVID relief.
County administrator Cassy Taylor described it as a “maintenance” budget, as spending drops in road construction and community planning drop by $2.5 million, to $25 million. Government operations is down by $3.3 million due largely funding that was spent on COVID mitigations at the McLean County Nursing Home and other county facilities. Public safety also would see a $1.6 million reduction due largely to a one-time boost to cover an electronic justice system data overhaul.
Taylor said inflation is leading to higher costs. The county also is boosting payroll by $2.4 million after a compensation study revealed many county employees were underpaid.
“We just haven’t kept up over the years and I would say the majority of positions were trending under market,” said Taylor, adding some jobs paid between 5-10% below market rates, and entry-level positions and lower-paying jobs will see the biggest adjustments phased in over the next two years.
Taylor said the budget also adds jobs in facilities management to handle infrastructure projects, additional attorneys and legal assistants in the state’s attorney’s and public defender’s offices and an additional staffer in the county treasurer’s office. The budget pays for 804 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions.
Under the proposed budget, the county's property tax levy would increase to $41 million, up from the $38.2 million this year. The tax rate of $.91509 per $100 assessed valuation would be $.00105 higher than the current rate. The owner of a $175,000 home would pay about $1.84 per year more in taxes.
Board member Chuck Erickson, a Republican, asked how much the budget would have to be cut to keep the tax rate from increasing. County administration indicated $47,000 would need to be trimmed.
The budget will be submitted to county board committees for review. The board is expected to vote on the budget in November.
In other business, the board:
- Accepted an agreement with McLean County Center for Human Services (CHS) to provide mental health services at the McLean County Triage Center in Bloomington. CHS would be paid $219,500 to provide treatment at the county’s walk-in crisis center for November and December and would receive up to $717,000 for 2023, pending county budget approval in November. The county has been staffing the triage center since March 2020. The county expects the move to a contractor who provided mental health services with generate additional revenue for the county through Medicaid reimbursements, along with adding a new electronic medical records system.
- Approved spending $100,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to help pay for a mobile health clinic bus for Carle Health.
- Approved a $97,340 contract with American Asbestos Abatement for lead abatement at the McLean County Museum of History — also paid with ARPA funds.
- Approved a $119,000 bid from Ragland Buildings of Hopedale to build a new boat rental and bait shop at Comlara Park in Hudson.
- Granted approval to the McLean County Historical Society to add two historical markers on McLean County Museum of History grounds to honor McLean County residents who died in the Korean and Vietnam conflicts and to move a 3,000-lb. stone marker from the site of the Grand Village Kickapoo Park outside of LeRoy to West Park. The project also will include interpretive markers donated by Simeon West regarding the history of the Kickapoo tribes who were believed to occupy the area in the 18th and early 19th centuries.