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Winneabago County Board Refuses to Fund Required Court Services Print E-mail

Public safety remains a chief concern in our community, and the members of the community rightly look to the criminal justice system to address this concern.  It is the Winnebago County Board’s responsibility to support the criminal justice system, and tonight was another example of the Board’s continuing abdication of that responsibility.

 

Given the 9-2 Joint Finance and Public Safety Committee’s vote against the Court’s requested budget amendment, tonight’s rejection of the amendment by the County Board is disappointing but not surprising.  Budget Amendment 2017-008 (attached) addressed two needs: 

 

  • Two additional juvenile detention officers are needed to comply with the new Illinois Supreme Court requirement that juveniles not be shackled for court appearance except in particular circumstances.  Unshackled detainees present greater security risks and require additional officer supervision.

 

  • Two additional juvenile detention officers are needed to provide transportation of minors between the Juvenile Assessment Center and the Juvenile Justice Center.  This function is currently handled by uniformed Sheriff’s deputies.  The Court, in collaboration with the Sheriff, identified this option as a way to free up Sheriff’s deputies for their sworn law-enforcement duties.  It is also a wiser use of tax dollars to use a lower-paid level of staffing to provide for the transportation of minors. 

The budget amendment was a revenue neutral use of existing Detention Home Levy surplus funds dedicated for the exclusive use by the Court for the operation of its Juvenile Detention Center. 

Tonight’s vote raises the question of whether the County Board is taking seriously its responsibility to adequately support the criminal justice system in our community. 

 

In FY2002, the entire criminal justice system – mainly the Sheriff and the courts – was budgeted approximately $50 million dollars from the Winnebago County General Fund.

 

In FY2017, the entire criminal justice system was budgeted approximately $35 million dollars from the Winnebago County General Fund. 

 

Despite enacting the 1% Public Safety Sales Tax in 2003, the County Board is currently paying $15 million less from its General Fund for public safety than it did in FY2002. The 1% Public Safety Sales Tax is expected to bring in approximately $30 million this fiscal year.  The taxpayers approved a 1% Public Safety Sales Tax to provide additional resources and services to the criminal justice system.

This kind of financial neglect cannot continue.  The Court is now forced to consider whether it will exercise its inherent authority to compel the County Board to meet its constitutional and statutory obligations. 

Winneabgo County Budget Amendment 2017-008

 

 

 
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