Chairman and sheriff exchange words before St. Clair County Board OKs budget increase

St. Clair County Board members Wednesday voted 18-3 to approve a $41.3 million budget for 2023, an 8.7% increase.

The vote took place after a couple of exchanges between County Board Chairman Mark Kern and Sheriff Rick Watson, who had asked about line items in his budget.

“There certainly are a lot of people making a lot of money at the sheriff’s” department, Kern told Watson. “You got a raise, you’re going to get $150,000.”

Watson replied: “Well I got that from the state.”

And then Kern, who was standing at the front of the board room next to county board members, fired back that that increase was due to people “standing up here.”

Later in the meeting, Watson again asked about his budget and Kern told him “it’s your choice” on how to use the money for the sheriff’s department.

Budget details

The county expects to bring in $44.5 million in revenue for the fiscal year that begins Jan. 1, including an estimated $10.2 million from property taxes, according to the budget document.

The largest appropriation in both the 2022 and 2023 budgets’ general fund went to human resources.

The human resources fund also had the largest spending increase in dollars from 2022 to 2023 at $842,860. Most of that increase — $840,000 — went to health and life insurance, and the rest went to full-time payroll.

You can see how much county employees are paid at bnd.com/publicpay.

The fund that appears to have taken the biggest hit is sheriff administration: down $130,839, or a 15.87% decrease from last year’s budget. But that’s because it lost a $200,000 expense for the corrections academy. Payroll actually increased.

The corrections officer training became a Southwestern Illinois College Police Academy program after the college recently signed an agreement with St. Clair County.

The only other general county funds to decrease since last year were mapping and county clerk elections. (The Emergency Management Agency budget didn’t change, but all 24 others increased.)

Mapping lost its community development programs line item while payroll increased slightly. County clerk elections’ payroll expense decreased while its software expense increased slightly.

How they voted

Here’s a breakdown on how county board members voted on the budget:

Three Republicans voted no: Andy Bittle of District 21; Ed Cockrell of District 7; and Kevin Dawson of District 20.

Five Republicans voted yes: John Coers of District 15; Dave Langford of District 16; Michael O’Donnell of District 22; Matt Smallheer of District 18; and Robert Wilhelm of District 4.

All 13 Democrats at the meeting voted yes: Robert Allen Jr. of District 1; C.J. Baricevic of District 10; Marty Crawford of District 24; Willie Dancy of District 3; Jerry Dinges of District 11; Ken Easterly of District 8; Scott Greenwald of District 28; Susan Gruberman of District 12; Jana Armstrong Moll of District 19; Lonnie Mosley of District 5; Roy Mosley Jr. of District 6; Ken Sharkey of District 27; and Scott Tieman of District 26.

Eight board members didn’t attend the meeting.

Two Republicans were absent: Rick Casey of District 29; and Stephen Reeb of District 13.

Six Democrats were absent: Steve Gomric of District 17; Harry Hollingsworth of District 2; Curtis McCall Jr. of District 25; Richie Meile of District 23; Robert Trentman of District 14; and C. Richard Vernier of District 9.