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Kane eyes bond sale to finance court case management upgrade

GENEVA – The officials overseeing Kane County’s court system don’t yet know how much it will cost the county to upgrade the computer systems supporting the county’s courts and related offices.

Neither has it yet been determined how much the county is willing to spend.

But county officials appear to be leaning toward an answer on how to pay for the project of installing a new electronic case management system: Issuing bonds backed by money from an existing countywide sales tax intended to provide funding for Kane’s criminal justice system.

Kane County officials for years have discussed improving the county’s courts-related computer software to allow the various offices serving the courts to better share the documents that circulate whenever a person is charged with a crime or files suit.

Estimates discussed in 2011 pegged the cost of the project at about $12 million.

In more recent months, officials, including the county’s chief judge, state’s attorney, clerk of the circuit court and public defender, among others, have urged a more aggressive approach to the problem, because they say the situation has worsened, costing taxpayers money.

In late May, the county’s Judicial and Public Safety Technology Task Force continued to push the project forward, sending on to the County Board a recommendation to allow the county’s Information Technology Department to hire four new professionals to facilitate the creation of the new system.

The task force also recommended using money from the county’s existing Public Safety Sales Tax to pay for those workers.

A special finance subcommittee of the technology task force Thursday discussed the next steps in assembling financing for the case management system project.

The subcommittee included Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen, Circuit Clerk Tom Hartwell, County Board members John Hoscheit, R-St. Charles, and Ron Ford, D-Aurora, and Kane County Judge F. Keith Brown.

While no formal action was recommended Thursday, the task force subcommittee appeared to favor selling up to $6 million in bonds, to be repaid over 10 years, to help finance the project.

Those bonds could be backed by the county’s Public Safety Sales Tax, according to a proposal submitted by the county’s finance department.

The County Board has committed about $800,000 to $900,000 a year from the Public Safety Sales Tax to the project. The county also is expected to transfer $1.45 million from that sales tax fund to the project this year.

The county’s Chief Information Officer Roger Fahnestock told the committee that the county likely would not know the project’s actual price until bids from vendors arrive in late August.

He said he expected the bidding process to be “competitive,” because more than a dozen vendors that could seek the county’s business.

The committee next will meet June 20, when it is expected to hear from the county’s bond advisers on the possible bond sale.

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