, coroner battle over budgets

Kane County Board chairman clashes with coroner

Published: Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Two of Kane County’s newest elected officials made headlines this year over budget battles.

Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen balked at Coroner Rob Russell’s initial budget request in August, which called for more than $900,000. That represented about a 24 percent increase from last year’s allocation of $757,000.

Two months later, Russell asked for more money – about $88,000 – to pay for the work his office already had conducted in 2013, including death investigations, autopsies and toxicology tests.

Lauzen – who campaigned last year with the goal of freezing the property tax levy – wanted justification for the requests.

Ultimately, Russell agreed to keep his budget at $843,000 for the next three years, barring forces outside his control. This gives the coroner about $86,000 more to work with than was previously allocated for his office.

Soon before the Kane County Board was set to act on Russell’s $88,000 supplemental budget request, a morgue freezer broke and required a $3,500 fix.

The board approved the additional funds for 2013, but only after Lauzen criticized Russell for the freezer mishap, asserting the coroner had a year to inventory equipment and perform maintenance.

Going forward, Lauzen suggested several proposals for the coroner’s office, including reevaluating the cost of autopsies, reviewing autopsies and defining the coroner’s investigation role with law enforcement.

Russell has said he intends to use 2014 to educate people about the coroner’s office.

– Ashley Sloboda