Kane County looks to fill $3.15 million gap in 2016 budget

  • Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen, left, said Wednesday he appreciates Kane County Sheriff Don Kramer, right, presenting his request for 10 new employees as an optional scenario with a clear view of the consequences for public safety and taxes.

    Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen, left, said Wednesday he appreciates Kane County Sheriff Don Kramer, right, presenting his request for 10 new employees as an optional scenario with a clear view of the consequences for public safety and taxes. Daily Herald File Photo, January 2015

 
 
Updated 7/29/2015 7:36 PM

The $3.15 million budget deficit Kane County officials are facing in 2016 appears daunting.

The looming deficit is more than the combined cost of operating the seven cheapest departments in the county. But just saying no to a few expense increases could quickly fill just about the entire budget gap.

 

All 21 county departments have now submitted requested budgets for next year. All told, 16 of those departments want permission to spend more money than their budget allows this year. Almost all of those cost increases are attributable to employee pay raises (2.5 percent for most union and nonunion employees) and benefit cost increases.

But there are a few other big levers.

The biggest of those is in the sheriff's office. Sheriff Don Kramer wants a $3 million, 12.3 percent budget increase. The bulk of that cost would fund the hiring of five new deputies and five new correctional officers.

The deputies, Kramer has said, are needed to improve nonemergency response times. The correctional officers would allow Kramer to reopen the cell block at the jail he closed when he canceled a $2.5 million contract to house federal marshal detainees.

County board Chairman Chris Lauzen, speaking at a finance committee meeting Wednesday, hinted in several ways that Kramer's request is too much. Lauzen said it would take a 6 percent property tax increase to balance out the cost of the new personnel.

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Lauzen later said it will be up to the board to decide if it wants to pay for that new staff.

"The sheriff did a good a job in presenting it as these are not all the things I want, but here are the decisions we can make together," Lauzen said. "If we don't open up the cell block, then we don't need five new people in corrections. So I think the board may come to the conclusion that, if you don't have prisoners, why would you have to open it?"

State's Attorney Joe McMahon is also asking for new employees. Six new staffers would add about $570,000 in new expenses to the 2016 budget. Many of those employees would be involved in implementing the county's new court case management system, but Lauzen called for "more work and conversation in that area" to see what expense reductions McMahon can offer to offset that new cost.

Coroner Rob Russell's budget also looks to be an early target for expense reductions. His 8.18 percent budget increase request is the fifth largest, percentage wise, of all departmental requests in the budget.

Lauzen suggested nearly all of that increase would be erased if Russell eliminates a compliance officer position from his budget. That position doesn't exist now. Some of those duties may be performed by a controversial contract employee Russell may hire. Lauzen said an office of eight employees doesn't need a compliance officer.

"It's not even a difficult decision to make in eliminating that position," Lauzen said. "The solution is already on the table."

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