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Peoria County Budget Proposal Cuts Auditor's Office Down To One Employee - The Auditor Herself

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Tim Shelley
/
WCBU
Peoria County Auditor Jessica Thomas speaks at a veteran's memorial event at the Peoria County Courthouse in this Oct. 2020 file photo.

Editor's note: Peoria County Auditor Jessica Thomas is a member of the WCBU Community Advisory Board.

Peoria County's fiscal year 2022 budget proposal would cut three full-time staffers from the county auditor's office, leaving elected auditor Jessica Thomas as the office's only employee.

The Peoria County Board's executive committee meets Tuesday to discuss the proposed budget, which would move those positions to the county finance office.

"In the case of the Auditor's Office, we are proposing a more efficient and cost-effective way to deliver taxpayer supported services that board members will discuss in more detail on Tuesday," said county administrator Scott Sorrel.

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A historical reckoning of staffing levels in the Peoria County Auditor's Office each year going back to 2012. The proposed FY '22 budget would reduce staffing to just one employee - the auditor herself.

The proposed cuts would trim $129,345 from the auditor's budget, or about 53.4 percent of overall spending.

Thomas said her office is already experiencing delays after the county board previously removed some fiscal duties from her purview, a move she claimed was unlawful.

"These job cuts will leave my office without the ability to perform many of its statutory duties. This hindrance in service will severely impact internal audits; leaving the county at high risk for loss due to a lack of internal review and oversight," Thomas said.

Thomas said the cuts will affect her ability to monitor how the county is spending taxpayer dollars. She said it will also negatively affect vendor relationships as bill payments are delayed.

The move is opposed by AFSCME Local 3586, the union representing auditor's office employees. They plan to rally outside the courthouse on Monday.

"Apparently, the county board has decided that they're going to cut the budget and reduce the union jobs in that office, and we don't think that that's something they should be doing right now," said Tim Lavelle, the staff representative for AFSCME Council 31 in the greater Peoria area.

Lavelle said the union considers the move a rebuke of the decision of Peoria County voters to preserve the independent auditor's office in a 2018 referendum.

"The majority of people in Peoria said they wanted an independent auditor," Lavelle said. "And this appears to be an attempt by the board to usurp her powers."

Only 17 counties in Illinois elect an auditor. Recent years have seen a trend of counties looking to consolidate the office's functions in other communities, as well. Tazewell County voters also rejected a move in 2018 to replace the elected auditor's role with a county-appointed one.

For her part, Thomas said she wants to work with all involved to find a resolution.

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Corrected: September 26, 2021 at 7:12 AM CDT
Peoria County Auditor Jessica Thomas says 3 employees from her office will be impacted by the cuts.