People guilty of any offense from speeding to murder in Kane County soon may find themselves paying an additional $2 of restitution, according to a plan by State's Attorney Joe McMahon. But his quest for a new fee hearkens back to a dormant plan for fee increases pitched last year that may be key to the county's current budget debate for 2013.
McMahon pitched the new $2 fee Friday to the county board's Judicial and Public Safety Committee. It would be charged to anyone receiving supervision or a guilty verdict for any felony, misdemeanor or petty offense. McMahon believes the fee could net about $200,000. The money would pay for the cost of the computer records involved with cases. It might also help pay for the larger technology upgrade his office and the rest of the judicial system seek. That upgrade has been estimated to cost $12.6 million.
The county board just enacted a $10 fee on all felony and misdemeanor cases last year to fund the Child Advocacy Center. Shortly after that fee came a pitch from then Chief Judge F. Keith Brown to increase more than 50 fees and fines associated with both civil and criminal offenses. The increases he envisioned ranged from a $5 bump on civil damages filings of less than $250 to a $125 increase on forcible entry case filings with damages greater than $15,000. Brown believed the fees would net about $1.1 million in new income that could help fund raises for state's attorney and public defender employees.
Officials dumped the plan late last year when they learned a state law prevented them from increasing those fines and fees until a new circuit court clerk is elected this November. At the time, board members said the decision to give raises to state's attorney and public defender employees should be made by the new county board when it's seated in December. The entire county board, plus McMahon, is up for re-election.
The time for that election is nearly here, but discussions of raises for those employees now appear headed for a decision before that new board takes over. Solutions for finding the $400,000 to $800,000 needed for those raises have centered around using either contingency funds or a county levy increase that would raise local property taxes. The $1.1 million in fee increases has not been mentioned.
The county board's Finance and Budget Committee will meet again on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the raises and tax levy.