Rising sales tax revenues brighten Will County budget outlook
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain email@example.com October 2, 2012 2:24PM
Updated: November 4, 2012 6:17AM
JOLIET — A struggling U.S. economy and rising pension and health care costs have hit many governmental bodies hard in recent years.
Will County government is no exception, with health care costs for employees expected to rise $4.5 million in 2013.
But Will County is luckier than some areas of the country because its retail sale tax and several other sources of revenue will increase by an estimated $5 million next year, said county finance director Paul Rafac.
Those increases will allow the county to cover its rising health care costs without increasing the amount it collects in property taxes, Rafac told members of the county board’s finance committee on Tuesday during a 2013 budget review.
Sales tax revenue is expected to increase $1.3 million next year over the amount budgeted this year.
“That number has continued to grow during the (economic) downturn,” Rafac said.
Will County was one of the fastest growing areas of the country before the recession hit in December 2007. While some expected business growth fizzled, other projects were far enough along to boost sales tax revenues in recent years, Rafac explained.
Other projected revenue increases include: State income tax, $2.1 million; county-owned Prairie View landfill fees, $1.3 million; and interest income on cash reserves, $700,000.
The county recently hired a professional investment firm to handle its longer term investments, which has led to the increase in interest income, Rafac said.
The county’s cash reserve fund is a healthy $50 million, which allows the county to avoid paying interest on tax anticipation warrants and earn interest on investments, Rafac said.
After hearing the revenue report, finance committee members debated increasing the property tax levy to try to capture money from new construction to fund capital projects. But the committee voted 6-0 to keep the levy the same.
Keeping the levy flat will send a message to property taxpayers that “we’re not looking to them for any additional dollars,” said committee Chairman Ed Kusta, R-Bolingbrook.
The committee will tackle the expenditure side of the budget during a meeting at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 16 at the Will County Office Building, 302 N. Chicago St., Joliet.
After the finance and executive committees review the budget, which was drafted by Will County Executive Larry Walsh, it will go to the full county board for approval at its Nov. 15 meeting.