Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant Delivers State of the County Address
Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant delivered the official State of the County address at the August County Board meeting, spotlighting efforts by county government over the last year to modernize operations and provide improved service to residents.
“I’ve had the opportunity to witness first-hand the important role that county government plays in people’s lives,” said Bertino-Tarrant. “Over the past year, our departments have worked hard to find new ways to adapt to changes, respond to challenges, and, most importantly, prepare for the future.”
In her address, Bertino-Tarrant shared several successes by county government over the last year, such as the completion of the county’s Renewable Natural Gas Plant, funding for state-of-the-art voting equipment for the Clerk’s Office, initiating a Downpayment Assistance Program to increase access to affordable housing, allocating $134 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocations, and launching the Will County Heroes Nursing & Teaching Scholarship. She also cited several efforts by county departments to prepare for an increased demand for county services resulting from continued population growth.
“These accomplishments represent a focused effort by our county offices to modernize our government and provide more efficient and effective services for residents,” said Bertino-Tarrant. “I greatly appreciate the leadership and staff in our departments who are constantly seeking innovative solutions to problems and have learned over the years to do a lot with a little.”
Bertino-Tarrant also presented the proposed Fiscal Year 2024 Annual Budget to the County Board, a balanced budget that adequately funds services and meets the county’s debt obligations. The proposed $812 million budget continues Will County’s prioritization of public safety, with 62% of the budget funding public safety offices and court services. The budget also does not call for the full allowable tax levy, resulting in a $2 million savings to taxpayers.
“As we continue to be more proactive in our decision-making to maximize savings, I’m proud to present a budget today that empowers all of our elected officials and department to continue providing quality services to the public,” added Bertino-Tarrant.
The proposed budget includes proposals for how the county will spend the annual revenue from the Illinois Cannabis Sales Tax, which includes funding for the county’s eviction diversion program, Children’s Advocacy Center operations, a re-entry program aimed at reducing recidivism. The budget also increases funding for programs addressing the opioid epidemic, utilizing $1.25 million received by the county as part of a national settlement.
Bertino-Tarrant also highlighted the completion of negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement for Will County employees. The ratified, four-year agreement ensures living wages for staff, with cumulative cost-of-living increases and step increases during the life of the agreement. The agreement also establishes Will County’s first parental leave policy for employees.
“This common-sense agreement helps maintain our competitive edge in the face of continued staffing issues for all levels of government in an increasingly challenging employment landscape,” said Bertino-Tarrant. “These negotiations were an opportunity for open and honest discussion on how we can support our staff and remain competitive in both attracting and retaining talented professionals.”
The proposed budget will now be reviewed by the County Board, who must approve a new budget at its November meeting before the fiscal year begins December 2023.