Probation departments throughout the state managed to avoid additional cuts under the Illinois Supreme Court's Fiscal Year 2013 budget this past weekend.
Gov. Patrick J. Quinn acted on more than a handful of budget bills on June 30, the day before the new fiscal year began. Although he used his line item and reduction powers to slash funding for the state's corrections, human services and juvenile justice departments, Quinn put his stamp of approval on the General Assembly's proposed budget for the state high court.
Under Senate Bill 2378, which Quinn signed into law as Public Act 97-726, the court will receive a $281.1 million appropriation from the state's general revenue fund, a nearly $7 million cut from its FY 2012 budget. In addition to paying the salaries of the state's more than 900 judges, the court uses a portion of its state funding to reimburse counties for providing probation services.
This fiscal year's budget includes about $47 million for probation services. State funding for these services has been on the decline for the past decade, falling from about $78 million in FY 2002 to $55 million last year. It appears that this fiscal year's appropriation marks one of the lowest amounts of probation funding in recent years.
Judy Dallas, director of Madison County's probation and court services department, said she expects it will take another four to six weeks to hear from the court on exactly how the funding cut will affect her department. She said she has seen firsthand how the budget crunch has played out over the past few years, during which time her department lost nearly half of its employees due to layoffs and attrition.
And Madison County isn't alone. David Beery, chief probation officer in DeWitt County who serves as president of the Illinois Probation and Court Services Association, said last month that the state has lost about 600 probation officials since 2006 due to budget cuts.
Beery said the court might be able to use other funds in its budget to offset to the decrease in probation funding. He said Chief Justice Thomas L. Kilbride mentioned that, as well as working with the legislature during veto session, as possibilities to address the funding issue during a recent gathering of probation officers in Springfield.
Kilbride asked lawmakers this past spring for about $332 million in state funding with about $95 million of that amount earmarked for probation services. The state's financial situation, however, resulted in across-the-board cuts for many state agencies and departments, including the court, this fiscal year.
Since the court has not yet determined exactly how much each county will be reimbursed for probation services, it is unclear whether this year's decrease in funding will result in layoffs.
The court's budget took effect on Saturday. The budget bills altered by Quinn, however, will go back to lawmakers this fall, when they will decide whether to approve or override the governor's reductions during veto session. It could be a controversial process as Quinn's reductions call for the closure or consolidation for dozens of state facilities, including mental health, correctional and juvenile detention centers.
"Cutting the budget is never easy but we must make the difficult decisions necessary to restore fiscal stability to Illinois," Quinn said in a statement. "This budget is a serious fiscal plan that pays our bills, closes facilities and prevents the collapse of our Medicaid system."