Pay me now or pay me later, but you will pay me was the message by administrators of Kane County's court system who delivered a bill for nearly $200,000 in unbudgeted expenses to the county board's Finance Committee Wednesday.
The bill was a bit of déjà vu for Kane County Court Administrator Doug Naughton. The over budget expenses include about $105, 000 to hire Spanish speaking interpreters for defendants. There are also about $36,000 in expenses for jurors' meals and about $34,000 in trial and coroner jury salaries. Naughton said board members should consider the costs unbudgeted but expected.
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"We're here in May or June the last seven or eight years saying we're going over budget in these items," Naughton said. "When we submit our budget requests, we tell you how much is needed to run that department. But by the end of the budget cycle, we end up with the same line items as we received in 2008."
The county board has held a hard line in keeping to a flat budget the last two fiscal years, but increasing costs in any line item has been difficult for every department in the county since the economy flopped. The flat budgets have led to a greater reliance on the county's contingency funds in recent years. Kane County Board member Cristina Castro said the county should recognize a known expense for what it is.
"We want to budget smartly, but we don't want to drain the contingency fund when it's already something we know we're going to have to deal with," Castro said.
The county board is about to embark on the budgeting process for the coming fiscal year. Beyond not budgeting for known costs, the board might have some other financial challenges.
A report released Friday showed the state currently owes the county $4.1 million. Nearly $2 million of that is for unpaid salary reimbursements for the probation staff in the county's judicial system. The state also owes the county $1.58 million in income tax dollars. The remainder of the unpaid money stems from grants owed to the health department and cellular 911 surcharge reimbursements.
As for the court costs, County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen said he wants to wait to handle the over budget expenses until later in the budget year. By then, other cost overruns in any other departments should come to light as well as any funds that might be used to cover the overages, he said.