New numbers show Kane County finished the 2012 fiscal year with $7.6 million more than it needed -- but taxpayers shouldn't expect a refund. Instead, county officials moved Wednesday to dedicate the surplus to raises, pension payments and future infrastructure needs.
The largest chunk, about $4.4 million, will be handled the same way the county has handled any surplus dollars in recent years. The money will be shifted into an account used for infrastructure projects. The county faces several big-dollar projects in the near future, including the possible build-out of the jail, expansion of the judicial campus and funding a major computer upgrade for the local court system. The county has a separate property tax levy that helps fund those projects. However, the county board shrank that levy in recent years to keep its relative portion of the tax bill flat for local residents during the bad economy.
The second largest chunk, about $1.8 million, will pay for raises for the county's court security staff. That union worked without a contract since the last deal expired in November 2008. The county recently reached a deal with the employees that provides retroactive salary and benefit increases that extend back to that expiration date. The impact is about $311,000 in immediate costs. The new contract expires in December. So the county is socking away money in anticipation of more raises for the court security staff and the county's other unions between now and the 2015 fiscal year.
The final chunk, about $1.4 million, will be dedicated to paying the county portion of its employee pensions. The county currently has about $45 million of combined unfunded future pension liability for its staff and sheriff's employees.
"Generally speaking, the county is in good shape," Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen said of the pension liability. "The idea of setting aside some money is, in later years, the obligation won't hit us so hard."
The plan of using the $7.6 million surplus for new and future costs will eventually move forward to the full county board with Lauzen's support. Members of the county board's finance committee said they will also keep the surplus in mind for any other unforeseen costs, should any arise.