CHAMPAIGN — The Democratic Party majority on the Champaign County Board will host a public meeting Wednesday to discuss county budget options.
The county's fiscal year starts Dec. 1 and the budgeting process began this week with presentations on requests from various county departments. A final budget plan is expected to be adopted in November. The next county budget will be a 13-month plan for the period Dec. 1, 2013 to Dec. 31, 2014.
The community budgeting town hall meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Champaign City Council chambers, according to Champaign Democrat Michael Richards, chairman of the 12-member Democratic caucus.
"We want to give the caucus and the general public a chance to weigh in with what they want to see in the budget as we start this process. It can be broad or it can narrow items that they think are important. We just want to offer a chance to do feedback," said Richards. "I was struck with the 'Big. Small. All.' process (a public prioritizing of countywide needs in 2005). Some of the things that came from the general public were things that were not on the radar of local officials at all, I believe that one of the biggest needs was expanding forest preserves."
Although the meeting Wednesday is being led by Democrats, it is open to everyone, including Republican county board members.
"We're not setting a budget there, but it's to better inform county board members about what is important to the community," Richards said. "It's not necessarily going to happen in tight budget times, but we want to give the community a chance to say everything broadly from, we need to ensure roads in the county are well paved to we need to be spending more money on criminal justice system programs to, for all we know, maybe there's some specific program or item out there that is really popular. Or people may show up and say that we think you're spending too much money on this item or that item and it shouldn't be a priority."
Richards said he believes the county will see approximately 2 percent revenue growth next year, but "most of that will be instantly eaten up by employee health care" costs.
"We've got to prioritize and I think we can make better decisions with public input on that," Richards said.