County facing $4.8 million dollar deficit following rollercoaster of a year

FOX HOLLOW – As the end-of-year numbers come in with elections ramping up, the first issue on the plate of the new county council will be the 2021 budget for the county. But one thing remains clear; some tough budgetary decisions will need to be made.

Despite the rapid expansion of the county over the past year, the county has simultaneously outspent its 2020 budget by several magnitudes as growing pains left the county without essential services several times this year.

Highlighted unplanned expenses in the expense report include:

  • Buying 2 ambulances and 2 fire trucks after the founding of Jasper County Fire Rescue, after the county terminated its contract with Ravenwood Fire Rescue, a private entity that provided fire services for about half the year.
  • A settlement paid out to two Jasper County Sheriff’s Deputies in July after they alleged then-sheriff Eric McGrath of wrongful conduct and discrimination following a shooting. The suit was settled out of court but allegedly includes medical expenses.
  • The destruction of no less than five police cruisers, and one ambulance in either collisions or connected to crime. A bank robbery in July totaled two police cars alone via gunfire.
  • $400,000 in unplanned overtime at the Sheriff’s Office during staffing issues earlier in the year.
  • Rocketing workers compensation fees after a multitude of on the job injuries.
  • A $700,000 rehabilitation to the Broadway Avenue Bridge connecting the Moonlight Ridge and Forgotten Sea districts after the bridge was deemed structurally unsound in the fall.

The sheriff’s office currently employees 18 people, the fire department has 8 full time employees and 6 volunteers. There’s 5 employees in city hall including current mayor Isabella Singh. Cutting expenses is going to be a politically-charged issue at best, given the current spiking crime rate in the county. However, raising taxes is a hot button topic in its own right. Jasper County has comparatively low tax rates compared to neighboring  counties but raising taxes has always been a controversial topic. Candidates in the upcoming election are left with a difficult choice.

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