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BLOOMINGTON — McLean County government is near its goal for employee buyouts to reduce its 2018 budget.

County Administrator Bill Wasson said 15 workers have volunteered as of Wednesday to take early retirement, helping officials address a $1.5 million budget shortfall and avoid laying off 20 to 25 employees.

Though most of the retiring employees have not been identified for privacy reasons, Wasson revealed Judy Brucker is among them because that means the county will need to hire a new executive director for its Children's Advocacy Center.

Some of the volunteering employees have submitted early retirement paperwork in the last week so they could still opt to change their minds, said Assistant State's Attorney Don Knapp.

Officials hoped 10 to 20 of about 70 eligible employees would take a combination of cash and future health insurance coverage to retire early, allowing the county to eliminate their positions or fill them with lower-paid replacements. 

About 20 jobs will be cut overall.

The county also is freezing wages and hiring. Wasson said he hopes the county's employee unions, for corrections, dispatch and highway employees, will agree to forgo annual raises in new contracts starting Jan. 1.

Wasson said officials will create a 2018 county budget that works even if employees don't volunteer for early retirement — an outcome they won't know for sure until after the board approves the budget Nov. 21.

The county is coping with drops in state funding and in locally generated revenue, including income and sales tax. The property tax rate is set to increase slightly as well: from 91.399 cents per $100 of equalized assessed valuation to 91.414 cents, costing the owner of a home valued at $165,000 another 9 cents per year.

"The staffing reductions we recommend will likely result in longer lines for service, expanded automated phone answering and requirements for appointments for some types of county services," said Wasson in October.

Follow Derek Beigh on Twitter: @pg_beigh

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Staff Writer

Reporter for The Pantagraph.

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