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Perry County sheriff reacts to proposed budget cuts

PERRY COUNTY — Sheriff Steve Bareis says he was prepared to make $420,000 in cuts from his budget, but was flat out angry when he saw that county board members want to slash it by $1.4 million.

This follows a proposed amended budget unveiled by county board members on Tuesday to help get county finances back on track.

If made permanent in two weeks, Bareis says he will have to lay off 26 employees. "I’ve got a good group of men and women and these are families that we’re dealing with. Dealing with people who have grown up here. Some of them 15, 18 years of their time," he says. 

He says those layoffs mean reduced patrols and cutting dispatch from midnight to 8 a.m. Dispatch workers also handles calls for the county’s ambulance service and Pinckneyville fire and police. As well as, fire and police for Willisville, Cutler, and Tamaroa. 

"Basically looking at inviting crimes, drugs, conspiracy to Perry county," Bareis explains. "We will soon see elements of crime override the safety of our community. "

Bareis says the proposed cuts to his office would close the jail. A judge would then have to decide whether to pay for inmates to be transported to another county or set them free. 

"It’s like I’m a barking dog with no teeth. You can bark all you want but there’s no payment for the penalty of the crimes committed," the sheriff remarks. 

County board member Robert Kelly says part of the reason for these cuts is the sheriff went over budget in over time and compensations last year, "If we don’t know that when we’re looking at the budget, we just feel like oh he spent an extra quarter million dollars and it wasn’t budgeted in there." 

Kelly believes board members are willing to work with department heads if they can justify the need for expenses, "We still got to have discussion. That’s what’s in the works right now to have discussion to see where people can move, where they can wiggle, to make it work." 

Meanwhile, Bareis says he has reached out to a lawyer with the Illinois Sheriff’s Association to see if the drastic cuts are legal. 

"I’m not going to lie down. I’m not going to roll over. I’m not going to let the public’s safety– the people in this community– be sacrificed because of poor planning and poor judgment," the sheriff says. 

There will be a county board meeting Thursday April 18 at 2 p.m. Residents can voice their opinions during the public comment period.

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