DuPage board backs budget with sheriff cuts
DuPage County Board members support the $431.8 million spending plan pitched last month by Chairman Dan Cronin. The budget passed out of the finance committee, to which all board members belong, with just a slight adjustment Tuesday morning. It is scheduled for adoption by the full board Nov. 13, and will take effect Dec. 1.
An additional $160,000 for public transit — which finance committee chairman Paul Fichtner called “revenue neutral” — was the only change made to Cronin’s fiscal blueprint.
The plan calls for cutting eight employees from County Sheriff John Zaruba’s staff. Zaruba lobbied for retention of the positions, saying his department can’t function effectively with a head count of 530 people. Although the current budget covers 538 people, disability leaves and other permitted absences have kept the on-the-job count at an average of 530 for the past several months, officials said.
Although Zaruba has said a move to 12-hour shifts cuts his overtime costs by $333,000, District 4 board member Bill Bedrossian was skeptical of the sheriff’s assertion that the department’s belt cannot be further tightened.
“I don’t believe that’s true,” he said. “We’re looking at lean-budget initiatives. We’re looking at ways to increase efficiencies.”
But according to Jim Kruse, the department’s administration chief, an extra personnel allowance is needed — and spending has already been cut close to the bone.
“We can’t look at averages. We have to work with actual positions,” he said. “We work dangerous jobs, and we have to have a staffing level that allows for people who get hurt on the job.
“We operate efficiently. We are not asking for pork.”
A last-ditch effort to restore the eight positions, without providing the additional funding, was unsuccessful.
“He’ll have to figure out how to pay for that, through his budget,” said District 6 representative Jim Zay, who proposed the higher head count. “There’s a disagreement, obviously, between our staff and his staff about how many he needs.”
Representative Grant Eckhoff, also from District 4, said the board has been through the budget tug-of-war with Zaruba before.
“We get a budget presentation that’s wholly inadequate, year after year,” Eckhoff said. “If he leaves me with a meat cleaver, then I have to use a meat cleaver, because I don’t have a scalpel. I mean, give me a break.”