- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—DECATUR — As questions linger about the future financial situation of the county, department officials have begun to unveil their initial spending plans as part of Macon County’s annual budget season.

County Auditor Carol Reed and Finance Committee Chairman Jay Dunn have asked all department to go through their offices and turn in initial budget packages this month.

“The overall goal is to reduce spending by 3 percent,” Reed said, adding oversight committees will continue to review budgets throughout the next month before the finance budget hearings start.

The next county budget begins Dec. 1.

A problem that faces the county is the dwindling amount of money in the general fund, which supports most county operations. The county has either lowered or kept its tax levy the same the past three years, which has cut into its once sizable $10.3 million reserve fund.

After this budget, the reserve is expected to be a little more than $5 million, which would be its lowest level since 2007.

Common practice is to keep enough money in reserve so the county could keep up its operations over three to four months. The amount to keep Macon County operating for that period is about $6 million.

Along with concerns over budgeting, county officials have already started to prepare backup plans in case lawmakers in Springfield continue to struggle to agree on a budget for the fiscal year that began July 1.

Several department heads told the county’s Finance Committee earlier this month that most of their grants were secured and they had enough reserve funds to cover salary for at least another month.

However, if there is no state budget approved by September, departments such as Macon County Probation and Court Services would need to look at other cost-saving measures.

Reed has said the county board could also look at tapping its rainy day fund, which is set up for whatever purpose that the board needs to maintain budget stabilization. The fund, which requires two-thirds vote by the county board to access, currently has $1.65 million.

Dunn has said he will call other top officials together to look at revenue flow, as well as revenue and expenses for the past four to five years for each department to see what other options may be available to save money.

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