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updated: 2/6/2014 1:41 PM

Employee raises, snow removal big ticket items for Kane County

Kane County officials brace for big-ticket buys amid budget battle

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Kane County officials will deal with big-ticket costs in coming weeks, not all of them foreseen, that will add a little stress to the quest for a flat 2014 budget.

One known cost will be about $514,000 to provide 2 percent average raises for nonunion county employees. Department managers will have flexibility to provide raises either above or below 2 percent, as performance dictates, as long as they stay within their established budgets.

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The county board plans to fund the nonunion raises with $1.24 million in savings resulting from changes to the county's health insurance offerings. The county converted to a self-funded plan, rather than contracting out, and decreased the county's contribution by 2 percentage points.

But a large number of county employees are union members.

Several of the union contracts have been in negotiation for many months. The next group to reach an agreement will be AFSCME union employees in the health, clerk and employment and education departments. Board members will vote on a new AFSCME contract next Tuesday.

Contract details weren't available Wednesday, but Drew Frasz, who sits on the county's labor management committee, said a main goal has been to keep union and nonunion raises on a level playing field. Nonunion employees had gone without raises for several years in recent county budgets while union employees received multiple raises either through negotiations or arbitration.

The biggest unbudgeted cost, though, may come as a result of a brutal winter. County board Chairman Chris Lauzen warned Wednesday the division of transportation may blow its budget by as much as $750,000.

Snow plows and de-icing operations have already run 56 times this winter. That compares to only 19 runs by this time last year. Those plowing efforts included 10,400 tons of salt at a cost of about $677,000. With about two months of cold weather remaining, Lauzen said the county may incur up to $500,000 of unexpected salt purchases.

The transportation staff has also eaten up nearly all of its overtime budget, meaning the county board may need to find as much as $250,000 in overtime pay to cover the rest of the winter.

"There's going to be an enormous impact on the budget," Lauzen said. "It's one of the reasons that it is so important that we manage our individual areas of the budget to allow for the truly uncontrollable events that will happen."

Lauzen again singled out Coroner Rob Russell's $19,000 in budget overages in 2013 as an example of what can't happen in 2014.

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