The 2008 St. Joseph County budget is one step closer to being finalized. Last night, department heads turned in their proposed budgets to the county commissioners. This Thursday, commissioners will meet again to discuss the numbers. St. Joseph County officials must cut about $3.4 million dollars over the next two years. Right now, they’re concentrating on 2008. The task is a tough one for department heads, where many county employees haven't gotten a raise in four years.
The Juvenile Justice Center is one of the departments facing major cuts. Combined, the JJC and Probate Courts must cut about $175,000. JJC’s Director Dr. Bill Bruinsma says quality of services won't go down, but employee workload will likely go up in some areas.
Meantime, the Parks Department is also facing cuts. 2.5-percent or more than $42,000 be cut from the budget, that includes staff and services. Evie Kirkwood, the Parks Department Director, says any time staff is reduced, it directly effects park users. She says they’ll need to rely more on volunteers and donations. “The staff here at St. Joseph County Park continue to provide good grounds, despite the fact that some haven't had raises in three, four, or five years,” says Kirkwood.
“I need to keep good people. Good people run good government and we need to keep people that know what they're doing here, “ says Dr. Bruinsma.
September 25th is when the budget must be finalized. County Commissioner Steve Ross says he knows department heads have a tough task. He says he doesn't want to reduce efficiencies within the county, but wants to cut excess.