Rock Island County looking at deep job and project cuts following rejected tax increase

ROCK ISLAND, Illinois – Rock Island County faces deep cuts after voters rejected a tax increase.  The county wanted a half-cent sales tax to help pay for Sheriff's Department operations but voters didn't buy it, with almost three out of every five voters shooting it down.

Now, the county is trying to find new ways to pay its bills and balance its books.

“We are in the situation we are and we must deal with it professionally,” said County Administrator, Dave Ross during Thursday, November 10, 2016 committee meeting.

This week voters defeated a county move to add a sales tax to help pay for public safety.

“I’ve already talked with the sheriff and we both agree the first thing to do is to cut every capital project,” added Ross.

“You can make cuts now that will end up costing you more, so I want to be very careful,” says Board Member, Kai Swanson.

Cutting capital projects means the aging jail and 911 systems won't be improved any time soon. Where the cuts may really hurt is among county workers, with more than 80 potentially losing their jobs.

“It’s going to have to be a question you're going to have to answer because it's people's jobs on the line at this point,” says Ross.

The county may also try to fund its operations with more borrowed money.

“It’s unfortunate and it's not good financial management but we don't have much of a choice so that's something else I’m going to ask you to consider,” added Ross.

The clock is ticking for county board members. They meet again next week and need to set their priorities by the end of the month.

“Protecting the public the best we can is the priority,” says Ross.

The worst case scenario would be for the county to cut 81 jobs. Administrator Dave Ross said that number could be pared down to 35 lost jobs if cuts are made in other areas of county spending.

Rock Island County voters had two tax referendums on this week's ballot. They defeated the plan for a sales tax for the county but approved a sales tax hike to fund school projects throughout the county.