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County down more than $3 million in cash

  • Jim Schmersahl (right), Randolph County's CPA, looks at budget documents during a discussion of the county's fiscal year 2016 audit with the county commissioners on April 21. Also pictured is Board Chairman Ronnie White (left) and Commissioner Marc Kiehna (center).

    Jim Schmersahl (right), Randolph County's CPA, looks at budget documents during a discussion of the county's fiscal year 2016 audit with the county commissioners on April 21. Also pictured is Board Chairman Ronnie White (left) and Commissioner Marc Kiehna (center).
    Pete Spitler/Herald Tribune

 
By Pete Spitler
Editor@heraldtrib.com
updated: 4/24/2017 4:25 PM

The county commissioners got another sobering reminder of the county's financial picture last week, as CPA Jim Schmersahl discussed the final figures from the county's fiscal year 2016 audit.

Schmersahl reported the county has lost $3.65 million in cash in the past three years. He cautioned that unless things change in how the county spends money, it will not have sufficient cash for future operations.

"These audit results continue to show a decline in the financial standpoint of the county," he said.

Schmersahl pointed to the rise of underfunded pension liabilities, the continued decline of sales tax receipts and limited increases in property tax revenue due to PTELL as contributing factors to his conclusion.

"The message here is a continuing decline in the financial position (of the county) and without a correction, you'll run out of money," he said.

According to the audit, the county's pension liabilities were overfunded by $477,840 in 2006. In 2015, they were underfunded by more than $5.5 million.

"We know we have to roll up our sleeves and double our efforts to bring things in line," said Commissioner Marc Kiehna.

Sales tax revenue for fiscal year 2016 was $1,764,441, down from $2,484,730 the previous fiscal year. The commissioners tried twice to pass a Public Safety Tax to help control the sales tax issue, but it was overwhelmingly rejected by voters each time.

There were some bright spots in the grim outlook. Expenses at the Randolph County Health Department were down 13 percent from last year, while expenses at the Randolph County Care Center were $125,326, down from almost $800,000 in FY15.

Revenues at the care center were also up $522,000 due to 700 patient days.

"Not only did you decrease expenses, you did it in the face of an 11 percent increase in revenue," Schmersahl said.

The county has also raised fees, fines and charges for services in the past year - leading to a $305,000 increase from FY15 - and made several staffing cuts at the courthouse.

But Schmersahl noted the cuts have been offset by increases in other areas, leading to a loss on the bottom line.

"It seems the county can't cut quick enough to keep up with the changes in environment such as the Affordable Care Act," he said.

Commissioner Dave Holder, who is also the county's budget director,  said "there are no easy answers" and noted how different streams of revenue come into the county's books at different times.

He used property tax revenue as an example, which doesn't come in until toward the end of the fiscal year.

"Making payroll becomes increasingly difficult," he said.

Holder said there is a study ongoing that is examining the Randolph County Sheriff's Office for possible savings and mused that perhaps it was time to look at insurance again.

Holder told Schmersahl he would like to have another meeting in June to see how the current fiscal year's finances were shaping up and if the county was getting closer to becoming financially sustainable.

"I'm trying to make the changes now for a better financial picture two years from now," he said.

In other news, the commissioners discussed a proposed gun range on County Line Road outside of Percy across from Knight Hawk Coal's Prairie Eagle Mine.

The special use request from Dave Rednour of Rednour Tactical Arms would consist of 12 pistol berms, a 1,000-yard rifle range and two trapshooting houses.

The berms are being built to federal standards, and would be 20 feet high and 16 feet wide.

"If it's done safe and right, there shouldn't be a problem," Rednour said.

Kiehna noted that the county has made a significant investment in the World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta and that its sales tax revenue is important to the county.

"We're going to do a lot of what the shooting complex doesn't do," Rednour said, adding that he does not intend to take trapshooting away from the WSRC.

Rednour noted that he has absorbed some of the shooters from the WSRC that were thinking of moving to a shooting complex in Sesser.

"We have absorbed them to keep them here in the county," he said.

Rednour added that members of the public have had problems getting into the gun ranges at the WSRC and he intends to offer a cowboy shoot and reach out to the Scholastic Clay Target Program pistol teams.

"This will be open so they can shoot anytime," he said.

Rednour said he hoped to have the range open in August with the hours of 8 a.m. to dark. It would be closed during deer season.

Rednour noted range officers would be certified through the state in CPR, first aid and gunshot wounds. The facility would also offer concealed carry classes for Illinois and Utah.

A discussion began about the proper size of the berms, the size of a safety danger zone and the size of the caliber allowed - with Rednour noting that he hadn't decided on what type of ammunition to limit it to, but the highest caliber civilians are allowed to own is .50.

One of the neighboring property owners, Nancy Knop, raised concerns about the proximity of her property - which would be within the proposed safety zone - to the range and how deer season would be the only time she and her neighbors would be safe.

"I'm a fourth of a mile away from him," Knop said of Rednour. "I don't think we'll be on our property enough for one week a year during deer season when nothing's being shot at us."

Knop brought up the National Guard's range north of Sparta near Hunter Field and how it was designed to not only stop and contain .50-caliber ammunition, but also rounds from 302 grenade launchers.

Ultimately, the commissioners decided to table the issue until their next meeting, which is scheduled for Thursday, May 4, at 6 p.m.

"My thoughts are we need more information and more time," Kiehna said. "The safety of people is of utmost importance."

ROUNDUP

  • General assistance for the period was $400. The Randolph County Care Center was reported to have 64 residents.
  • County engineer Mike Riebeling reported he would be opening bids on May 10 for a culvert project. Four culverts - one on County Highway 18, two on County Highway 22 and one on County Line Road north of Percy - are to be replaced.

Motor fuel tax funds will cover the cost of the project.

  • Interim Health Department Administrator Stephanie Martin noted that two more Beverage Alcohol Sellers and Servers Education and Training (BASSET) sessions have been scheduled for May 22. Red Bud Winery will hold one at 2 p.m. with the other at Sparta Country Club at 7 p.m.

She also noted that the RCHD will start collecting dead birds on May 1 as part of West Nile Virus testing.

  • The commissioners approved a resolution with IMRF that corrected a miscalculation on an audit.
  • Lastly, the commissioners approved a special use permit for Knight Hawk Coal, which is expanding its coal mining operations onto a 385-acre tract along State Route 154 in Sparta.

The commissioners approved rezoning the land from agriculture to mining.