Will County Executive Jennifer-Bertino-Tarrant Delivers State of the County Address
Proposes balanced budget that prepares county government for continued growth
Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant delivered her second State of the County address at today’s County Board meeting, highlighting the important role that county government plays in empowering continued growth.
“I speak to you today during a time of optimism for our county and region,” said Bertino-Tarrant. “With a steadily increasing population, a growing economy, and vibrant communities, Will County’s future remains strong.”
In her address, Bertino-Tarrant spotlighted the accomplishments by county leadership and staff over the last year. This includes the implementation of the county’s 211 Helpline, the rapid construction of the Renewable Natural Gas Plant, and the important role of county departments during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We must not forget the lessons learned from the unprecedented global health crisis that uprooted our lives and reshaped the day-to-day business of government,” said Bertino-Tarrant. “Across county government, our departments adapted to an ever-changing pandemic environment and sought to find innovative ways to deliver services.”
Bertino-Tarrant also presented the proposed Fiscal Year 2023 Annual Budget to the County Board. The $731 million proposed budget is balanced and meets all the county’s debt obligations. The budget invests in key priorities to prepare county government for the increased demand for services that will result for continued growth in residential population and economic development.
“A rising tide lifts all boats, and the factors that make Will County an ideal place to live, work, and raise a family is not isolated to any particular area,” she said. “At all levels, we must continue our efforts to plan for residential and economic growth.”
Recommended within the budget is an increase in public safety funding, including within the budget for the Sheriff’s Office. Also proposed is an increase in base salaries for the Public Defender’s Office to align with industry trends.
Bertino-Tarrant also called for continued funding for the county’s eviction diversion program, which was initiated ahead of the State of Illinois’ eviction moratorium expiration. The program works with homeowners and renters facing eviction to connect with them with available resources. Eight months into the program, 371 households have been assisted by the program and 291 have received financial assistance from the State of Illinois for housing stability.
“I strongly believe funding should be made available to keep this program in place,” said Bertino-Tarrant. “While we have to remain mindful that this program does not solve all of our housing problems, it is an essential lifeline to keep people in their homes who are at the very end of the eviction process.”
The budget includes proposals for how the county will spend the estimated $14.5 million in revenue from the county’s innovative Renewable Natural Gas Plant, which is set to begin operations this Fall, and the $2 million in available revenue from the State of Illinois Cannabis Sales Tax. Bertino-Tarrant also recommended tools for the County Board to initiate a five-year capital improvement plan to prioritize spending on capital needs.
“The need is clear: We know our population is growing and we know we need to be prepared for it. It is time for us to move from the hypotheticals of growth to the practical reality of governing,” she said. “This will ensure that our government is prepared to provide services to an increased population.”
The budget process now moves to the County Board, who must approve a new budget at its November meeting before the fiscal year begins December 2022.