After eight years as auditor, and a little over a month since she was elected to a third full term, Peoria County Auditor Carol VanWinkle, has resigned.
In what VanWinkle considers a “knee-jerk reaction” to a $2 million deficit, the Peoria County Board is cutting 40 jobs in 2017, including one position in the auditor’s office, reducing VanWinkle’s crew to a single employee.
“They decided they have a big economic problem and have to balance the budget right now,” VanWinkle said. “I feel for the board, but it needs to be more reflective.
“It’s devastating after building this office for eight years. There are not enough resources for this department,” she said. “I did make pleas in committee, that I needed two people just to barely walk the line. It’s won’t be possible to get everything done.”
In 2013, the auditor’s office operated with three employees; an internal auditor, a chief deputy and an assistant auditor. A voluntary retirement incentive of $10,000 cash and $35,000 in a medical account that year reduced staff to two employees. Soon there’ll be one.
By resigning, VanWinkle, 66, is turning away from a $96,000 annual salary and applying for Social Security four years earlier than she planned.
“I agonized over the decision. I wouldn’t have the money I did to win an election that I was going to walk away from in a month,” she said, “but I can’t take a paycheck from the citizens of Peoria County for work I’m not doing.”
To put it in perspective, VanWinkle said one responsibility of the auditor’s office is to process an average of 26,000 claims per year. These claims must be verified, including the vendor licenses and the services provided. Each take around four minutes to process, if everything goes perfectly, she said.
This auditing process results in 1,733 work hours. A full-time job is 2,080. By factoring in vacation time, holidays and personal days, this task alone requires a full-time employee.
“When I first ran in 2008, my statement was, ‘I can pilot the ship and plot the course, but we can’t navigate the shoals if we need help in the boiler room,” she said, recommending the county board use a scalpel rather than a machete in making budget cuts.
“They need to identify through thorough analysis what people do, and first identify which programs are statutorial and which are not statutorily required,” she explained. “Perform a time study and program analysis. It seems to me that’s the type of study that needs to be done before these drastic cuts are made.”
Before her election in 2008, VanWinkle worked for 32 years in the Peoria County Sheriff’s Office, 20 of which she served as budget coordinator. As auditor, she implemented on online accounting application which gives access to the county’s checkbook, dating back to 2005.
“It’s about transparency. On www. Peoriacounty.org is all of the information,” she said. “It tells you who bought what with whom and how much they paid for it. Citizens need to know or should be able to find out without filling out a Freedom of Information form.”
VanWinkle’s last day as auditor is Dec. 31. The Peoria County Chairman, Andrew Rand has 60 days from the date of resignation to appoint a democratic replacement. She said the county layoffs will likely be implemented in April.
“My concern is for the citizens of Peoria County, Republican, Democrat … it doesn’t matter to me, I represent all of the citizens of Peoria County,” VanWinkle said. “But, at the end of the day, I have to look at myself in the mirror and like what I see. I can’t just stand around an office drinking coffee and collecting a paycheck.”
— VanWinkle resigns Peoria County auditor post over budget cuts —