Peoria county leaders call budget cuts disheartening, but say it’s the right thing to do

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PEORIA COUNTY, (WMBD) — Thursday, the Peoria County Board voted 12 to 6 to cut each department’s budget by 10.5%. This will affect the county treasurer, the county clerk, the state’s attorney’s office, the sheriff’s office, the county auditor among other departments.

County leaders called the cuts unpleasant and disheartening, but said they had no choice in the matter.”You cant keep spending if the revenue is not coming in I wish it could be something different, but hard decisions had to be made,” Peoria County Treasurer Nicole Bjerke said.

Cuts in funding will result in staff being laid off, some employees will not have the option to come back. Peoria County Sheriff, Brian Asbell said he was proactive. He already laid off 32 sheriff’s office employees and said he has until July to decide who will not be invited back.

Sheriff Asbell said that will impact response times, emergency services in the patrol division and the number of court security officers in the courthouse.

“There’s going to be collateral damage when you diminish any of those workplaces,” he said.

Bjerke said there are five people in the treasurer’s office total and she was forced to lay-off one employee permanently. The other employees have been furloughed. Bjerke also sacrificed a deduction in her salary.

“It was very difficult, nobody wants to have to do that and decisions needed to be made,” Bjerke said.

County leaders are also eliminating programs and warn taxpayers that public services will be delayed.

“It’s going to end a lot of the programs that I spent so many years of my career building, re-entry programs, programs designed to stop the cycles of recidivism,” Sheriff Asbell said.

Jamie Harwood, Peoria County’s Coroner said in his office it might delay death certificates and FOIA requests.

County leaders said these cuts were necessary so the burden would not fall on the taxpayers. Without reduced spending taxpayers would have faced higher taxes. “A lot of our taxpayers are probably without jobs right now or they’ve had a reduction in their hours and their incomes have been reduced and I just don’t think we can lay that burden onto them,” Harwood said.

Although saddened about budget cuts, county leaders said they are thankful to the Peoria County Board for reconsidering the first proposal to make more severe cuts. Originally, each department would have had to adjust their budgets by a 13.1% decrease in spending.

The county leaders said regardless of cuts and delayed services, they will do the best they can to accommodate you and are asking for your patience and understanding.

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