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Draft Kane budget includes money for disputed new coroner deputies

GENEVA – Kane County Coroner Rob Russell may get two new deputy coroner positions funded in next year’s budget.

But he, like any other county officials or department heads asking for relatively large budget increases, may need to come before the Kane County Board to further justify the additional expense.

The Kane County Board Finance Committee reviewed the latest revisions to the county’s evolving 2014 budget Wednesday, which Kane County Finance Director Joe Onzick said have eliminated a projected $2 million deficit.

The revisions primarily shift spending from the general operations fund to other county funds that have money available or that county officials say would be more appropriate.

The full 2014 county budget needs to be approved by November. The budget, however, at this point also includes funding for two new deputy coroner positions requested by Russell.

The matter had been a subject of contention between Russell and Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen. 

Russell had submitted a budget that included a 24 percent spending increase. Russell said the increase was needed to reflect unionization of his office’s staff and new rules governing how to pay coroner’s deputies, particularly for after-hours work.

He has estimated that cost, which would include overtime and a $100 per day on-call stipend, would increase his office’s budget by $145,000 if nothing was changed.

As an alternative, Russell asked the county to hire two new deputies at a base salary of $40,000 each, which would eliminate most after-hours calls and overtime.

Lauzen suggested he would not support the new spending unless Russell agreed to a third-party evaluation of his office’s finances to verify the need. Russell and Lauzen have disagreed over who that third party evaluator should be.

On Wednesday, Lauzen did not express opposition to the idea of the new deputies. However, the new budget removed the coroner’s plans for a salary raise for his workers. 

County Board member John Hoscheit, R-St. Charles, chairman of the Finance Committee, said that change was to bring the coroner’s budget in line with other offices’ and departments’ budgets. He said the County Board intends to deal with requests for pay increases for all county employees later.

“We’re not singling out the coroner here,” Hoscheit said. 

Onzick estimated that change would reduce the coroner’s budget request by about $57,000. However, Lauzen said the county’s budgeting policy will require Russell and any other county officials requesting budget increases of more than 5 percent to make their case to the County Board.

That presentation could take place at a special finance committee meeting in September.

“Board members will need to decide, will certain folks get more than 5 percent, when everyone else is holding the line?” Lauzen said.

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