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State To Fully Fund Probation Officer Salaries, Alleviating Burden On Counties

Brian Mackey
NPR Illinois
Illinois Supreme Court bench (file photo)

The Illinois Supreme Court will fully fund the salaries of county probation officers for the first time in over a decade.

Chief Justice Lloyd Karmeier announced the funding increase after the General Assembly approved the high court’s budget.

This fiscal year, the judicial branch will receive more than $405 million from the state’s general revenue fund — an increase of $60.5 million over each of the past five years.

“While substantial, this long overdue increase is hardly a windfall,” Karmeier wrote in a column last month. “Rather than fund new initiatives, it will be used primarily to catch up on existing financial responsibilities that have continued to rise even as our budget remained stagnant.”

Karmeier indicates the most substantial change will be reimbursement for probation services: For FY 2020, the state will pay out $132 million to counties to cover the cost of select probation officers and detention staff. That’s up from less than $83 million in 2019.

Dan Hunt is director of probation and court services for Peoria County. He said Last year, counties got were only reimbursed 70 percent of the cost — which means they had to make cuts or kick in their own dollars.

“When the Supreme Court is meeting its obligation on all these positions, then that burden is not pushed to the county,” Hunt said. “Every county is breathing a sigh of relief in this area.”

Hunt said Peoria County is expecting an increase of $700,000 to $800,000 this year.

He said they don’t plan to hire new staff, but will instead use the money to fund existing staff — including 33 probation officers, 40 youth development specialists in the detention center and 5 supervisors in each area.

According to Hunt, the situation is similar for other counties in the 10th Judicial Circuit Court: Tazewell,Marshall, Putnam and Stark.

Dana Vollmer is a reporter with WGLT. Dana previously covered the state Capitol for NPR Illinois and Peoria for WCBU.