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Kane board gives early nod to $80M spending plan

Chops coroner's request

GENEVA – Kane County’s government moved closer to tying up the loose ends remaining on its 2014 spending plan.

But next year’s proposed county budget has its critics, including Kane County’s coroner, who believes the financial proposal will leave him shortchanged and unable to complete his office’s tasks without an additional infusion of cash.

Tuesday, the Kane County Board voted 22-2 to place on file for public review a final budget proposal for 2014.

The nearly quarter of a billion dollar overall budget includes about $80.5 million to fund day-to-day operations in the county, which includes such items as the county’s courts, jail, sheriff’s police, transportation division, health department, building department and others.

That would mark a 5.6 percent increase in the county’s general fund over last year.

However, county officials including Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen noted the county is not asking for any more money from property taxpayers next year.

To achieve that goal, the county budget will reduce some property tax levies, dedicated to pensions and county liability insurance, to boost spending elsewhere.

The county’s chief financial officer, Joe Onzick, reiterated Tuesday that, despite the changes, the county also will fully fund its employee pensions and other obligations.

Such budget-balancing maneuvers led some on the board to question whether the county could continue to balance the budget and hold the line on the tax levy again next year.

To that end, several board members including John Hoscheit, R-St. Charles, chairman of the Kane County Board’s Finance Committee, urged the board to adopt a multiyear approach beginning next year.

The budget, however, also was notable for something it did not include: funding for two new deputy coroners and to pay for an increased number of autopsies, as was requested by Kane County Coroner Rob Russell. 

Russell had asked the county for $867,700 to fund his office next year, a 15 percent increase over this year. He had said the additional money was needed to hire the two new deputies to sharply curtail the need for overtime and on-call pay for after hours work.

Instead, at the recommendation of Lauzen and Onzick, the County Board signed off on funding of $817,800 for the coroner, eliminating the two new positions and essentially giving Russell about $60,000 more to pay for the additional work.

Onzick and Lauzen called the recommendation a “reasonable compromise.”

Russell, however, said no such “compromise” existed because he never agreed to any such deal. He also said the amount would leave his office underfunded.

“This is neither reasonable nor a compromise,” he said.

The county budget will remain open to review and public comment for a month. The County Board is scheduled to vote on the budget at its next meeting Nov. 12.

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