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Article posted: 8/2/2013 5:54 PM

Facing projected 2014 deficit, Kane chairman renews flat tax

By James Fuller

Budget requests by Kane County departments will place the most strain yet on Chairman Chris Lauzen's pledge to keep a property tax levy flat as projections show a minimum of a $2 million deficit in 2014.

Lauzen said this week he will stick to his pledge by wielding a big budgetary knife as the 2014 fiscal year approaches Dec. 1.

Several major factors fuel the projected deficit. Despite the ongoing hiring freeze, multiple departments requested personnel in their 2014 budgets to the tune of about $741,000 in added costs. The county's health insurance costs will rise as much as 9 percent, adding another $768,000 to the budget. And, thanks to the recent settlement with the court security employees union, the county's general fund must shoulder an additional $545,000 in costs.

That last added cost might also serve as an early warning sign the $2 million projected deficit is probably larger. As many as nine union contracts will be renegotiated with an impact on the 2014 budget.

There are no raises factored into the $2 million deficit. Any union, or nonunion wage increases, would inflate the budget. Projections show a 1 percent wage increase for all county employees would add $572,640.

The fiscal elephant in the room is the lack of any contingency funds in the 2014 budget. That contingency covers unexpected costs, which tend to be hundreds of thousands of dollars in the county's recent fiscal history. The county board's self-imposed contingency rule calls for a 2 percent nest egg. That equates to about $1.6 million.

Lauzen told members of the county board's Finance Committee Wednesday they must remember the flat property tax levy as they now begin the process of working toward a balanced budget.

"We are not going to ask our property taxpayers for more," Lauzen said. "We have the great majority of the board members on board with that commitment. And we are going to have a really balanced budget, not like the state of Illinois. No property tax levy increase. So as we look at these numbers, this is preliminary. This is nowhere close to where we're going to net out."

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