Kane County board smacks down Lauzen fiscal plan

Kane County Board members executed a mutiny against Chairman Chris Lauzen on Tuesday, delivering a major rebuke to financial policies pushed by Lauzen and his closest political allies.

Lauzen promoted a nine-pronged budget policy resolution that found support just last week on the county board's executive committee. Some of the changes called for, such as getting revenue/expense forecasts from departments within 21 days of a request, didn't cause political ripples. But other facets, such as automatic budget reductions for departments with cost overruns and a formal request that all elected officials adopt a hiring freeze, raised questions about the separation of power.

Lauzen also pushed for an outside legal opinion on his and the board's ability to force other elected officials, such as the clerk, sheriff and state's attorney, to follow the board's spending priorities. That, too, fueled grumbling about Lauzen and the board overstepping their authority.

A full 75 percent of the board jumped ship when it came to the final vote on those policies Tuesday. In what appeared to be a coordinated plan, Republican Phil Lewis, backed by Democrat Don Ishmael, made a motion to table the resolution indefinitely. A motion to table does not allow for public debate.

In the resulting roll call, 18 members voted against the fiscal policy changes. That left only six votes in favor of the plan, the lowest level of support yet for a Lauzen-backed initiative.

In an interview, Lauzen said he wasn't sure what message the board sent taxpayers about budget priorities through the vote. The board faces a $5.2 million budget deficit for 2018.

"Any one of your readers should just read that resolution to examine its reasonableness in coming to a consensus budget," Lauzen said. "Those are constructive suggestions. If the majority doesn't want those, it's up to them. It's up to the board to pass a budget."

Ishmael said the vote was a rebuke of political games and tactics that would divide elected officials who have to work together to craft a budget.

"To me, the chairman's resolution was all political," Ishmael said. "He's starting fires where there doesn't need to be fires. Let the department heads and elected officials run their departments as they see it. That's why they were elected. I understand the need to keep the budget in check. But I don't know what else we can do besides try to work with the other elected officials. It doesn't seem like the chairman wants to reach out and make those phone calls and sit down with the other officials."

The board has about three weeks to craft a balanced-budget proposal for 2018.

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