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updated: 4/7/2012 3:20 PM

Hold on expansion of judicial center

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The economy tanked, the jobless rate is intolerable, people lost homes, the numbers of homeless and poor increased and Illinois is broke. Judges, whose salaries increased an average of 21.5 percent since 2004, enjoy guaranteed automatic 3-percent pension raises, expect a 2012 cost-of-living raise of 9 percent and have a job to which they can be hired but never fired, should be satisfied. If not, they should read Jake Griffin's Suburban Tax Watchdog column from March 29.

Caseloads for Kane County judges are less than similar sized counties in Illinois and neighboring states. Illinois judges are better paid than their peers in other states, according to Griffin's article. Theirs is an important but also comfortable job. One might expect some empathy for their fiscally strapped state employer and the citizens whose taxes compensate them.

Why then does Kane County Chief Judge Bob Spence continue pressing a lame duck county board to spend $426,000 for architectural cost forecasting for a judicial center expansion project that may cost $10 million to $15 million? Obviously, he is confident he will prevail on this fall's incoming board as well.

Saving millions from today's budgets is prudent, as Kane County candidates espoused during the recent campaigns. Kane is already strapped with possibly spending $90,000 to $12.6 million to upgrade the court system technology. Just ignore the alarming range in those figures, it's part of the problem.

Spence should back off until the numbers indicate need and the economy improves. Surely, he can work within the available space for now, particularly since his district has had less of a per-judge caseload increase in recent years then McHenry or Lake counties have.

Gail Talbot


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