Lake County budget adviser recommends borrowing more

2012-08-28T18:45:00Z Lake County budget adviser recommends borrowing moreBill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com
August 28, 2012 6:45 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | Lake County officials might need a $20 million loan to meet their ever-rising spending plans.

Dante Rondelli, financial director for the Lake County Council, said Tuesday he is recommending the fiscal body raise its borrowing goals by an additional $5 million over previous projections.

He said health care providers treating full-time county employees are expected to bill the county an additional $3 million next year.

Another $6 million to $7 million is needed to meet U.S. Department of Justice demands that the county update the jail's four-decade-old plumbing, create more private space in the lockup for medical and mental health screening of inmates, and pay the salaries and benefits of 18 additional jail corrections officers to improve safety for inmates.

The County Council also has to make up a $5 million shortfall in property tax collections this year without slashing essential government services next year.

Rondelli expects council members also will be confronted with other needs, which is why he raised the borrowing ceiling from $15 million to $20 million.

The council will begin its work at 9 a.m. Wednesday with a six-hour public hearing in which 64 county, township and some fire districts will ask for a total of $25.6 million more than the council plans to spend this year.

Rondelli will then ask the council to discard impractical wish lists and decide how to pay for the increases that cannot be ignored.

Rondelli said council members may accept or reject his borrowing recommendation, but he will insist they agree on a plan to retire the proposed debt as quickly as possible and permanently address budget-busting costs in the criminal justice and public safety departments.

"If we don't, that's fiscal suicide," he said.

Lake County Council members have repeatedly insisted a local option income tax can't be that permanent solution because it unfairly burdens working families and homeowners while exempting business from paying such a tax.

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