Home / News / No extra funding for Cal County Assessor’s office – Chicago Tribune

No extra funding for Cal County Assessor’s office – Chicago Tribune

The Calumet County Assessor’s Office will not receive a new appropriation from the Lake County Council on Tuesday of nearly $80,000 it was asked to pay for contracts signed outside its authority budget, officials said.

At the council’s workshop on Thursday, members said they could not support the request for funding for professional services requested in the budget submitted by the evaluation office because they specifically reduced that item in the 2024 budget process.

Council Vice President David Hamm, D-Hammond, who chaired the review committee, said the office signed contracts with vendors who didn’t have the money and would not honor his request for funding.

Deputy chief assessor Sondra Ford did not seem to understand that the money was not available even though the council did not fund the request in the approved 2024 budget.

“The contracts were approved by the commissioners, but our budget was cut,” Ford said.

At the time the contracts were signed, Ford said the office didn’t know the budget would be cut. Hamm asked what would happen to the county’s finances if other county assessors went out and made contracts outside their budget and then came to the council for approval.

Council President Christine Cid, D-East Chicago, said it’s important for department heads to know they need funding before going to commissioners to get a contract signed. Hamm added that commissioners likely signed the contract with the understanding that the office would wait until the money was available.

Commission Chairman Mike Repay, D-Hammond, who was at the council workshop, confirmed that without the appropriations, the contract is invalid.

Scott Schmal, the council’s financial director, said it’s common for departments to not understand the budget process. Just because a department requests money does not mean the request will be approved.

“Your request was a significant increase in that line item,” Schmal said. He said the increase was more than 500% over the previous year’s amount and that the council was intentional about reducing that item during the budget process.

“Your budget was not cut this year. It is higher than last year,” Schmal said. “This specific line item (budget) request was deliberately increased. “And it was not consciously approved.”

This month, Hamm said the council is trying to obtain a minimum appropriation from the general fund until the auditor’s office officially finalizes the county’s cash balances for submission to the state.

The Calumet Township Assessor’s office is currently in a state of flux following the Jan. 23 death of Cozey Weatherspoon, who just started his second year in the seat.

“We have a new Town of Calumet Assessor coming in,” Hamm said.

Since it is not known who the new assessor will be, any decision must wait until the person is seated. The council will also reorganize its committees on Tuesday, with Assemblyman Ted Bilski, D-Hobart, likely to be the new chairman.

“We need to put this aside for at least a month and find out who the committee chair is and who the new Calumet County Assessor is,” Hamm said.

cnapoleon@chicagotribune.com

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