MOUNT CARMEL — Wabash County Commissioners voted to pay $250,000 on an old Elected County Officials Retirement Fund which has run in the red for more than a decade. The fund, part of the Illinois Municipal Retirement Account, is an older type of retirement fund that no longer exists.

In December 2015, the ECO retirement fund was at a $1,247,285 deficit. Today, that amount is down to $282,522.

"The Elected County Officials Retirement Fund, also known as ECO, became too expensive for counties to afford. Unfortunately, by the time the program ended, most counties were already in the hole due to higher retirement payout amounts," said Wabash County Treasurer Beverly McBride.

"In the late 1990s, counties were mandated to offer ECO. Counties had to match employees' contributions and employees could buy back and make higher returns on their retirement investments. Counties got to the point where they just couldn't afford the program, so it eventually ended — but counties had to go ahead and pay those retirement accounts out, causing many to go in the red," explained McBride.

While county officials have tried to reduce the negative balance on the fund, high interest payments on the negative balance began to add up. McBride said the county is charged 7.5 percent interest on the total balance at the beginning of the year.

"The county's financial situation is good right now and the commissioners are making good decisions financially. This is a good time to make an extra payment or two in order to pay off the remainder of the negative balance, so we can save money by not having to pay interest any more," said McBride.

Commissioners agreed to pay the extra $250,000 payment towards the negative balance which stood at $500,000 prior to the most recent payment being made. "Hopefully we can make another payment at the end of the year and get it paid off," said McBride.

This is the only fund in the red within the county's finances. The payment on the ECO account came from the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.

On Monday, the commissioners also voted to spend a $100 grant from the Illinois Association of Counties on improvements for Froman Park.

The county is getting ready to make $471,000 in property tax distributions to the taxing districts.

Wabash General Hospital CEO Jay Purvis and WGH Board President Bill Easton discussed with commissioners discuss the vacant WGH board member seat. Purvis reported they're close to making a recommendation to commissioners for the appointment.

Sheriff Derek Morgan reported that the department was active in 167 incidents in February. They delivered 15 summons, 22 warrants and investigated 22 traffic crashes. The jail population as of Monday was ten.

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