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Lauzen: 'There's no surplus'

GENEVA – A proposal to dedicate $7.6 million of money left over from this year's Kane County budget to future expected needs continued to gain support from Kane County Board members Wednesday.

But Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen took time during a County Board committee meeting Wednesday to tell those in attendance that, while the money will not be spent this year, it does not represent extra money.

"There's no surplus," Lauzen said. "We're short, folks."

Last week, a proposal backed by Lauzen advanced out of the County Board's Finance Committee to direct $7.6 million from the county's general fund for future goals.

The money was budgeted for the current fiscal year, but is not going to be spent, said Kane County Board member John Hoscheit, R-St. Charles, chairman of the Finance Committee.

Hoscheit noted that, when this has happened in previous years, the county shifted the money to its capital fund, to be set aside for future county building needs, such as new courtrooms or software.

The county will do so again this year, as the proposal would designate $4.4 million to the capital fund.

Hoscheit said the need is particularly pressing because the County Board last year opted to virtually eliminate a property tax levy that collected money for capital projects. He said the fund needs to be filled to ensure the county has money in future years for big-ticket projects that continued growth will demand, particularly at Kane's courthouses.

This year, however, the county, under the finance proposal, also would set aside some of that money for helping the county deal with increases in union labor costs and to help the county "begin to chip away" at its pension obligations, Hoscheit said.

Under the proposal, the county will put $1.4 million this year toward pension obligations the county is required to pay the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, and $1.8 million, to be paid over the next three years, to pay an arbitration award mandated by a judge for county jail workers.

Some County Board members, during Wednesday's meeting of the board's Executive Committee, said they had been contacted by residents who wanted the county to refund the "surplus" to taxpayers.

But Lauzen stressed that the county money is not a "surplus," as the county currently faces a pension funding shortfall of about $22 million, and needs to begin erasing that.

He also has noted that the county could face greater financial stress in the future, should the Illinois General Assembly go along with a proposal from Gov. Pat Quinn to reduce the amount of state income tax revenue doled out to local governments.

"Anytime anyone thinks we have excess money, look at IMRF," Lauzen said.

The finance proposal was endorsed by the Executive Committee, and it is scheduled to go to the full County Board on Tuesday.

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