Russell, Lauzen again don't see eye to eye on budget matters
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The disagreement over money matters between Kane County Coroner Rob Russell and county board Chairman Chris Lauzen widened Friday when Russell's request for an extra $87,927 to finish out the current year was pulled off a committee agenda.
Barb Wojnicki, the chairman of the judicial and public safety committee, would not say who first suggested pulling three supplemental budget requests. She did say that she, Lauzen and Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon agreed to remove the items from the agenda.
Besides the coroner, Sheriff Patrick Perez and the courts administration requested extra money for their 2013 budgets. The fiscal year ends Nov. 30.
Lauzen said such requests should be vetted by the county's chief financial officer and the auditor before being presented to the committee. That was not the practice of the previous administration.
Lauzen also said the committee had not been given enough detail, in time, to make an informed decision on the requests.
The meeting packet posted online had a one-page summary form and the resolution. Committee members received a detailed paper presentation from Russell right before Friday's meeting, he said.
But Russell said a five-page explanation was emailed to Lauzen's executive assistant Monday afternoon. A viewing of the "sent emails" list on Russell's assistant's office computer, after the meeting, appears to indicate so.
Russell also said it was emailed to Wojnicki, to board member John Hoscheit and to the state's attorney's office Tuesday. Russell said he supplied the paper copies Friday as a backup.
"These are not frivolous expenses. They are for autopsies, fuel, toxicology reports, and the new expense of budgeted overtime," Russell said.
Committee member Maggie Auger questioned why the resolutions were pulled. She said the committee has known about the shortfalls projected in the sheriff's and judiciary's 2013 budgets since the spring, and when approving the 2014 preliminary budget in October it heard from Russell that his portion would be insufficient.
The memos for all three resolutions noted that the county board had been warned by department officials, when it made the 2013 budget, that it wasn't allotting enough for those departments.
"It just seems like we continue to delay and delay and delay," Auger said.
After the meeting, Lauzen said he felt it important that a projected 12 percent increase in spending be justified before a budget amendment was approved, that Russell should have met with the finance officer and the auditor, and that "one person" shouldn't be able to obligate the county to spending money. While the coroner is elected, he doesn't write the checks to pay the bills.
Board member Douglas Scheflow asked what would happen if the resolution is not approved. McMahon said that it would be up to the county to decide what bills to pay, if money couldn't be shifted from elsewhere in the coroner's budget. Russell said there's not enough left in other lines in his budget to do so.
The county began paying overtime to deputy coroners in September and has spent $5,336 so far, Russell said. Before September, deputy coroners were paid an on-call stipend at night and on weekends, plus an hourly wage if they were called in to work.
Russell said the office has done more autopsies than last year and is already over budget on autopsies, and he predicts his office will have to conduct 12 more before the end of the year.
Lauzen said he, finance director Joe Onzick and auditor Terry Hunt would discuss the budget requests Monday before deciding on a next step.
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