How is Your Money Being Spent in Lake County? Can We Afford Our Local Governments?

By Brian Massie, A Watchman on the Wall

Leonard Gilbert and I spoke at the May 2, 2024 Lake County Commissioners’ meeting.

The following is a recap of the Lake County fund balances for the months ended March 31, 2024 and April 30, 2024 sorted from largest to smallest for the month of April balances.

We were trying to determine how the County will pay for the new Public Safety Center (formerly known as the jail)? We hear that the cost will exceed $200 million!

Commissioner John Plecnik and Commissioner Candidate Morris Beverage lll have publicly stated that they will not raise any taxes to pay for the jail. The Commissioners can raise the County inside millage property taxes another 1.0 mill without needing a vote of the taxpayers. That would generate $7.0 million per year.

It appears to LFC that the Commissioners will have to drain the various funds that they have tucked away surplus funds. For example:

American Rescue Act Plan: $21,804,200 (limited to only $10 million for jail)
General: $18,605,078
Permanent Improvements: $15,090,623
Economic Development: $12,752,178
Total $56 million

We know that Commissioner Plecnik has his “sights set” on the Surplus Over account 894 $3,949,326.22 for the jail. We have cautioned Commissioner Plecnik against using those funds because it represents overpaid property taxes collected by the County for the past 30 years. The funds need to be given it back to the taxpayers by forgoing that amount from the next property tax collection cycle. To put the money in the General Fund is legalized theft!

The Prosecutor may want to chip in a couple of million from his almost $10 million in the Forensic Crime Laboratory account. They are accumulating $1.6 million more each year more than their expenses. The original property tax levy asked for more money than was needed to run the crime lab so that the Prosecutor did not have to go back to the people for more money for 15 years. As a side note, we have been told from multiple sources that they no longer go out to the crime scenes to collect evidence.

We point out another startling fact that many citizens may not know. Deepwood has three accounts in the County funds balance totaling $65,352,834.09. Note that account 208 “Deepwood Stabilization” has $14,723,415 for a rainy day. However, Lake County account 213 “Budget Stabilization” has “only” $9,042,400 in their rainy day fund. How can any taxing authority have more “rainy day” funds than the County?

We have previously complained to the Budget Commission about the excess cash sitting in the Deepwood accounts, but Prosecutor Coulson is their legal counsel and he also sits on the Budget Commission so they are untouchable. The Commissioners just love this fact because any interest earned on the money goes into the County’s general fund. And the ability to spread money around the County is pure, raw power. Deepwood’s stabilization fund balance continues to lose purchasing power with federal government’s planned inflation. The money would be better utilized by being in the hands of the taxpayers to be spent in the County.

We will continue to update the funds balance at the end of each month so that we can see how the Commissioners actually pay for the Public Safety Center (jail). To see what the $200+ million jail will look like, here is our previous article about the jail presentation at the Corrections Board meeting:

Ron Young’s parting comments about the two top priorities of government are very valid, and the growth of Lake County government seems unstoppable. Can government grow to the point that it is no longer affordable for the average citizen?

Categories: Lake County - General, Lake County Politics


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