It's been six months since the Kane County Board inked a settlement deal with Circuit Court Clerk Deb Seyller to end a costly lawsuit spawned by a budget battle. And now Seyller wants to know when board members intend to fully live up to their end of that legal agreement.
Seyller recently sent a letter to Jim Mitchell, chairman of the county board's Finance and Budget Committee, saying the settlement required the county board to develop a budget process ordinance to create a unified budget approach among all county departments as well as address some of the issues that fueled the budget arguments between Seyller and the board.
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"There have been no communications from the county on whether a budget process is being reviewed," Seyller said. "While I do not believe that you are the sole person to represent the county in this matter, I am reaching out to you as chair of the Finance and Budget Committee to address the agreement before any further delay could be considered no longer a reasonable amount of time."
Seyller then spelled out 16 suggestions for what a budget process ordinance should contain.
She calls for more detailed minutes of committee meetings, including a full audio recording.
She also calls for an honest attempt to take politics out of the budget process and a more clearly delineated boundary between the board and the authority elected department heads, such as Seyller, have to control their own offices.
In an interview Mitchell said he'll meet with Seyller to talk about her ideas and the need for a budget process ordinance.
"We talked before about that in terms of what we have already and if that meets the essence of the settlement," Mitchell said.
The effectiveness of the county board's current budget deliberation process could become a new battleground between the board and Seyller. The process has been evolving the past few years. Seyller concedes that the process is better, but said in an email interview that it doesn't go far enough.
"Under the settlement agreement, the current ordinance does not satisfy the intent of the agreement," Seyller said.
She called her letter to Mitchell, and its publication on her website, debseyller.com, a "nudge to remind the board of their agreed to legal obligation."
Seyller said a budget process ordinance can't be thrown together in a few weeks. And the county board isn't that far away from thinking about the new fiscal year that begins Dec. 1.
"Responsible leadership would have taken their obligation seriously and started identifying the areas needing improvement within the first month or two," Seyller said. She hopes her 16 suggestions get that ball rolling. However, Seyller said she recognizes the board doesn't have to listen to any of her ideas.
"They do not have to listen to a single suggestion from anyone other than the board members themselves," Seyller said. "If one were to take into consideration cooperation and communication that I keep hearing promoted, the board would reach out to all officials, elected and appointed alike, as part of developing a fair and stable budget process."
In an interview Wednesday morning, Kane County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay said she wants to take a closer look at the details of the settlement agreement before deciding on whether or not the board's current budget process fulfills what the settlement calls for. She said it's way too early to start talking about the budget process in context of the next fiscal year.
"What I've called for is an open and public, but thorough, process that allows elected officials the opportunity to put forward what their needs are," McConnaughay said.
No matter what board members decide, Seyller said she'll be an active participant in crafting the budget for her office for the next fiscal year.