McLean County residents will see more spending on roads and behavioral health services after the County Board on Tuesday approved its $101.9 million budget for next year.
The 2020 spending plan marks a 5.1% increase over the current budget. The highway department will see some of the biggest increases, with $2.9 million more to cover road improvements related to ongoing wind farm projects, and $1.3 million more in motor fuel taxes for road maintenance and construction projects, among other increases. The budget also includes around $600,000 in additional spending on behavioral health services.
Homeowners are unlikely to see any change in their property-tax rate, which is expected to remain at 91 cents per $100 assessed valuation. Thanks to a modestly growing tax base, the county’s tax levy will grow to $36.4 million—less than 1% more than this year’s.
“There’s been a lot of things happening. And we’ve been able to pass a tax rate that is not going up and be able to share that with the residents of McLean County,” said County Board member Jacob Beard, a Republican from Bloomington.
Board chair John McIntyre praised the county’s new administrative staff—led by Administrator Camille Rodriguez—for its work preparing the budget. He said county leaders are proud to pass a budget that’s balanced and doesn’t rely heavily on borrowing, as other counties do.
“We’ve had a County Board that’s shared that philosophy,” he said. “Both sides of the aisle, both political parties have pretty much said, we want to be cost-effective and cost-efficient. And we have.”
The county’s non-union employees will receive 1.5% pay increases and see the reinstatement of merit raises. The budget includes funding for 9.5 new full-time employees working on mental health, plus one new hire each for the highway department and in human resources. Positions were eliminated in the health department and nursing home.
More Elections Funding
The county clerk's office will also be getting more money for elections.
The clerk's office will receive $445,093 in additional funding for elections, although $282,209 of that will technically be moved up to the 2019 fiscal year. The remaining $162,884 increase is included in the 2020 budget.
The new money will be used in part to fund more election judges and equipment, such as iPads to check in and register voters, at a second polling place being added at Illinois State University, in Watterson Towers. That's in addition to the one already at Bone Student Center, which is also getting more judges and equipment, said Clerk Kathy Michael.
Sheriff's Union, New Animal Cemetery
In other action Tuesday, the County Board approved a new three-year contract with the union representing sergeants, deputies, investigators, and lead process servers in the sheriff’s department. The contract calls for deputies to receive raises of 2.5% for 2018, 2.75% for 2019, and 2.75% for 2020, county officials said. The sergeants also got a $650 per year equity adjustment added to their base pay for 2018, 2019, and 2020.
The County Board also approved a special use permit for a new animal cemetery that will open in McLean. Applicant Patricia Braid of Heyworth plans to operate the cemetery that will include a crematory for animals, according to county records.
“It’s a new business. It’s something new. It’s unique. And I don’t know that there are many pet cemeteries in the area,” said Jim Soeldner, a Republican from Ellsworth and the board’s vice chair.
“I hope we don’t have the same problems that they had with the movie back in the 1980s,” he joked.