MORRIS – Grundy County State's Attorney Jason Helland was shocked when he heard the county audit presentation Monday night, saying the good news was at odds with what he'd heard during the budget writing process.
During the budget writing, Helland said he'd been told the county was looking at a more than $700,000 deficit, but Tawnya Mack from Mack and Associates of Morris said her audit showed there was more than $1 million in new revenue and the county had about 8.5 months of operating cash on hand.
"We're in great financial shape," Helland said.
Mack did not assess the financial state of the county but said there were improvements over last year's audit, which was marred by a rough software transition she called "quite the nightmare," that there were fewer findings in this year's and revenues were higher.
"You're pretty close to where you need to be," Mack said. Some of the revenue was due to increased equalized assessed valuation across the county, leading to higher property tax revenue.
She also said some of that increase in revenue came from the State of Illinois catching up with payments after the two year budget crisis, with some revenue lines representing 13 or 14 months of revenue. There were also some one-time payments that made the revenues look higher as well and the increase wouldn't necessarily be repeated this year.
Mack told the board the benchmark for cash on hand should be for 8-9 months of operation for funds, like the General Fund, that are reliant on property taxes that don't start coming in until June. She estimated the county has 8.5 months of cash on hand.
Helland said the county board had been telling department heads to to adjust to smaller budgets in the last budget writing process. He said the previous standard for cash on hand they'd been told was 6 months.
"I think a lot of the county board was being conservative with the numbers," he said. He said his department is always looking for costs savings and doesn't want to spend money it doesn't have.
"I don't want to hear about cutting budgets or shrinking departments," he said.
County board chairman Chris Balkema (R-District 2) said he thought the audit was an improvement.
"It was a fantastic year," he said, noting that the county had addressed many of the older findings the audit had listed last year. "(The audit) was thinner and with fewer findings."