StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-115999407631613.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘Mary Ann Aiello (R-9) pushes to cut FCU funding during the Sept. 28 County Board meeting.’);
Amid GOP and Democrat debates to approve the 2007 budget, the Winnebago County Board managed to almost unanimously agree to cut funding to the countys Financial Compliance Unit (FCU), a major and rare defeat for States Attorney Paul Logli.
Mary Ann Aiello (R-9) proposed a decrease of $237,033 in the FCUs funding. Aiello alleged that the FCU, which was formed five years ago, is not effective in collecting fines and other court fees. The proposal would only fund the FCU for the next six months, while the county re-evaluates the programs efficiency and considers other collection options.
I think, at this point, we owe the taxpayers an explanation of why in five years it hasnt done what its supposed to, Aiello said.
District 4 Republican Chris Johnson seconded the motion, citing a report from Loves Park indicating that of 1,200 traffic fines issued, only 58 percent had been paid. The remaining 42 percent amounts to $248,000 in uncollected fines in Loves Park alone for the October 2005 to June 2006 period.
Villages in my district are complaining that theyre not receiving the monies that they think theyve levied in fines, Johnson said. I, too, champion the outsourcing of our collection duties, and believe that if we cant come up with some significant amount, or explanation or justification, that the county board of the future should have the ability to look at this in the next three to six months and decide whether or not they want the FCU to continue.
With a 24-1 vote, Tim Simms (R-14) voiced the only opposition, and referred to Johnsons remarks by saying: Let them go collect their own money, if they think they can do a better job.
Simms noted the FCU operates on 5 cents of every dollar they collect and pushed for a full years funding. However, the countys general fund provided $449,000 to run the FCU, but the FCU only collected $184,000 in fines, for a cost of $265,000.
District 5 Republican Pete MacKay supported the cut, saying: I think there are problems. I think there are concerns, and I think Mrs. Aiello has got the best interim answer for that right now.
George Anne Duckett (D-12) stated shes been against the FCU from the beginning.
It shouldnt take five years, Duckett said. If I couldnt do a job in five years, Id be gone. She added Winnebago County States Attorney Paul Logli is not a collection agency.
Materials distributed by Loglis office to board members before the vote purported the FCU budget of $449,000 translates to a cost of collections of 8.8 percent, which certainly compares favorably with any private sector collection agency.
Phil Johnson, a District 8 Democrat, reminded the board of how often the FCU has been debated.
If something was working, we wouldnt hear anything about it, Johnson explained. Its time to make some changes.
Pearl Hawks (D-6) asked Aiello what other contractors would cost the county. Aiello had no numbers yet.
District 4 Republican John Harmon defended Loglis efforts, but acknowledged problems. He blamed limited resources and lack of cooperation for outstanding collections. Harmon referred to people walking out of the courthouse without paying their fines and offered that stepping up enforcement on that end could help.
In the end, Simms cast the sole no vote, and the FCU will, for now, only receive six months worth of funding while the board considers all options.
From the Oct. 4-10, 2006, issue