Midyear budget projections for Kane County show the potential for a small surplus at the end of the year. But a wave of non-budgeted costs in the county's court system may just as easily wipe out both the surplus and the county's emergency funds for the year.
The county's finance department is projecting a $176,000 surplus to end the year, but it already has warned board members that easily could change.
One of the main areas of county expenses driving that potential shift from black to red is the court system. At least some of the cost overruns have created an I-told-you-so moment.
Chief Judge F. Keith Brown told a county board committee he needs $192,000 more to cover costs for foreign language interpreters and court-appointed counsel. Additional lawyers are needed at taxpayer expense whenever a case involves multiple defendants and representation of both defendants would create a conflict of interest in the public defender's office.
"I was initially upset about the cost overrun until I realize we actually asked for what we needed but were given a different amount," Brown told the committee that helps oversee his budget.
Adding to that total of cost overruns is a request for an additional $76,517 from court services. Staff told the committee it needs that money to pay for the rental of electronic monitoring equipment.
The county has moved toward more extensive use of such equipment to keep the county jail population down. Housing an inmate in the jail is typically more expensive for the county.
Combined, those two requests for extra funds equal $268,517.
The good news is the county has $468,000 set aside in a contingency fund for emergency expenses. The bad news is there are still budget issues to sort our in the circuit court clerk's office. That issue is still wrapped up in a lawsuit that is also accumulating legal fees for taxpayers.
Right now the circuit court clerk's office is on track to go over budget by $412,383. That's makes a grand total of $680,900 in extra money the county may have to find by the end of the year.
That fact has some members of the county board's finance and budget committee not so eager to approve any requests for additional money just yet.
"I have a suggestion that at this point we don't give them any special budget supplement at all," said Committee Member Cathy Hurlbut of the pending requests. "If you go over on one item, you've got to get it from another item. Just to say we're over on one item, and we've got to pony up, I'm going to say no to that."
Members of the county board's executive committee are next in line to view the budget requests.