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posted: 11/16/2011 5:30 AM

Lower juror pay, mileage proposed in McHenry County

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The McHenry County Board is expected to consider a cost-saving proposal that lower the pay for certain jurors and decreases their mileage reimbursement rate.

Under the current system, jurors who get summoned get paid $5 pay for the first day of service, and $12.50 for each subsequent day, whether they serve on a jury or not, said McHenry County Court Administrator Dan Wallis.

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Under the new system, jurors would get paid $12.50 on the second and subsequent days only if they serve on a jury; otherwise, they would get paid $5 per day. The proposal also seeks to decrease the mileage reimbursement rate from 26 cents per mile to 10 cents per mile.

The Court Administration also made an internal change to schedule all future jury trials on Mondays and Tuesdays only, Wallis said.

Right now, the county is spending about $270,000 yearly on jurors, including pay, mileage, food, coffee, and other extras, he said. The county will save at least $75,000 from the internal changes and new measures, if approved by the county board, he said.

On Tuesday night, the proposed new ordinance was placed on a 30-day review period.

County board member Tina Hill said the new proposed pay is so low, "it's not worth the time to administer it." "I think it should go to zero if we're going to do five dollars," she said.

County board member John Hammerand, on the other hand, said he believes jurors should be compensated at a higher rate. "I think the $12.50 was minimal already," he said.

Wallis said he recognizes that $5 per day and 10 cents a mile doesn't cover juror's gas expenses and lost wages. "It's a pittance," he said. "Probably the best comment I have is that if you enjoy the freedoms that you have, than you have to put in the time to serve."

As for those who advocate increasing jurors' pay, "I wish it were more, but at the same time, where do we get our money from, the taxpayers?" Wallis said. "The government should take not one more dollar than it needs to operate."

The total budget for the Court Administration for the current fiscal year is just over $1.2 million in salaries and benefits for about 11 employees, plus contractual services including juror pay and other expenses, he said.

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