PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Last month, the Peoria County Board made what county leaders are calling “gut-wrenching” reductions to the county budget. Now, three county departments could get more money soon. Friday, county board chairman Andrew Rand announced potential alterations in the budget. If approved, the general fund balance would increase by $853,500, bringing it to a total of $20,127,591. The $853,500 would be split between the Peoria County Sheriff’s Office, the State’s Attorney’s Office and the Election Commission. The state’s attorney is slated to get $104,000, the county sheriff is slated to get $449,500 and the county election commission is slated to get $300,000.
The Peoria County Sheriff said that with initial budget cuts, the only option he had was to stop mental health services at the jail and re-entry programs. Now, he is hoping more money will sustain these services.
“We have 70% of the persons incarcerated in that building with some form of mental health issues you could see how dangerous that would be for not alone staff but those that reside in that building,” Asbell said.
The sheriff said if his department is approved for more money he can hire a re-entry program coordinator or social worker. He said he’s considering highering an ex-offender for the re-entry program position.
“With all the problems going on in the world I can’t go to different parts of the community as a white police officer and try to have these conversations, but I truly believe if we have these trust-building exercises while they’re in custody that we’ll actually have individuals leaving the jail returning to the community and saying let’s work together,” Sheriff Asbell said.
The Peoria County Election Commission Executive Director Thomas Bride said Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to sign a bill into law that mandates local election officials to increase vote-by-mail options. Bride said this creates a unique challenge, and they will need more money to manage.
“Democracy begins at the ballot box, but you have to have access to the ballot box to make sure you have democracy,” Bride said.
Bride said he wants to make sure all tools are in place for the election to be fair and secure.
Also, the Peoria County State’s Attorney Jodi Hoos said now has an opportunity to bridge divides that have existed for decades, while building relationships that will last for decades.
Hoos said the events that shook the nation made it clear that more work needs to be done regarding race relations. If approved for more funding, Hoos plans to hire an attorney and a social worker. She said both will be tasked with identifying, correcting and preventing social injustices occurring in our criminal justice system.
“You really need to have your thumb on the pulse of the community and as the top law enforcement person in the county that’s what I want when something bad happens,” Hoos said. “I need to not only know how to respond, but who to respond to.”
Hoos adds, she would rather make a difference than do nothing and watch Peoria be the next city to make national headlines.
The county board chairman said he has received multiple questions about where the money will come from. “I know what account we’ll take it out of, but we don’t have a revenue source tied to it, so we’re going to increase our spending and not have revenue coming in to match it,” he said.
The budget amendment will be presented at a special budget committee meeting Tuesday at 3 p.m. The Peoria County Board meeting will follow and board members will take a vote on said funding.