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Kane coroner, board chairman clash over coroner’s budget

GENEVA – Kane County’s coroner believes his office needs more money next year to do the work it is obligated by law to do.

Members of the Kane County Board, however – and particularly, Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen – believe Kane County Coroner Rob Russell may need to do more to demonstrate that need before he is given the money he has requested.

Russell presented his $943,000 budget request Friday to the Kane County Board’s Judicial and Public Safety Committee. The budget request, which is the first submitted by Russell since he was elected coroner last November, marks an increase of about 24 percent from last year’s $757,000.

Russell said the increase is needed to help him more appropriately pay his deputy coroners for work outside normal business hours.

In previous years, Russell said coroner deputies were paid a base salary, plus $90 per call for “after-hours events” under a policy put in place by Russell’s predecessor, former coroner Chuck West.

Russell said deputies should be paid $100 for days they are on call, plus hourly overtime for after-hours work.

Russell said that change would result in the need for an additional $144,000.

However, Russell suggested the county instead hire two additional deputy coroners, at salaries of $40,000 each, to reduce the need for overtime.

Russell said the need is mounting, because his office expects to respond to about 767 calls this year, and more than 800 next year.

Russell’s request, however, was questioned by Lauzen.

Lauzen noted no other county offices had requested such a large increase, even though they also could claim to be “shortchanged” by county budgeting procedures.

Lauzen questioned whether Russell had sought “efficiencies” in his office that could reduce the need for the larger budget.

He asked Russell to agree to allow a third-party evaluation of his office to support the assumptions that underpin his budget request.

Lauzen suggested Kane County Auditor Terry Hunt perform that evaluation.

Russell rejected that suggestion, saying he wanted any such evaluation performed by the Illinois Coroners and Medical Examiners Association, an association populated by professionals who best understand his office’s duties.

Lauzen, however, said he believes the coroners association would not be “an unbiased source, as far as the taxpayers’ perspective.”

“My statistical data is accurate,” Russell said. “A third party doesn’t know what we do. The only third party that knows what we do are those that do what we do.”

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