Kane County ends 2017 with $1.9M budget surplus

Updated 2/1/2018 9:04 AM
  • Kane County Board Finance Committee Chairman John Hoscheit, left, and board Chairman Chris Lauzen delivered promising financial news Wednesday.

      Kane County Board Finance Committee Chairman John Hoscheit, left, and board Chairman Chris Lauzen delivered promising financial news Wednesday. James Fuller | Staff Photographer, 2014

Kane County received two pieces of positive financial news in a series of reports Wednesday that have ramifications for the past, present and future.

In terms of the past, all accounts for the 2017 fiscal year are settled. The final ledger shows a $1.9 million surplus. Finance committee Chairman John Hoscheit said it took a lot of wrangling, but officials did what was needed to get the 2017 budget in line.

"Early in the year there was a crisis," Hoscheit said. "We were going to be $2.8 million over budget. We worked collectively to resolve that issue and turned a negative into a positive."

That same sort of collaboration might be needed again. Hoscheit already suggested taking some of the $1.9 million to resolve the first budget surprise of 2018 -- a $343,000 cost overrun in the contract to provide medical services at the county jail.

The sheriff's budget, and what happens to the rest of the surplus, will be a topic of debate in coming weeks. It's also likely to inspire departments to come forward with funding increase requests before the money is gone.

In the past the county has earmarked surplus funds at the end of the fiscal year for capital projects. The 2017 books showed the county has a revenue problem. Income fell $2.5 million below budget. The surplus exists because expenses were $4.4 million less than budgeted.

County board members signaled they'll seek more budget cuts in 2018 by commissioning a study -- since completed -- to determine what services the law requires the county to provide and what it can do without. Board members have not yet formed any action plans based on its results.

Another piece of news suggested early positive returns on a decision that split the county board when first pitched by Chairman Chris Lauzen. The board agreed to issue bonds to address unfunded pension obligations last year. There was some risk involved with the deal. The Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund must realize at least a 7.5 percent rate of return for the county to see the savings it hoped to achieve with the infusion of borrowed money.

Lauzen said the return in the first year looks to be about 15.73 percent. That could bring the main pension fund up to about 90 percent of being fully funded. Another pension fund, specifically for law enforcement, could reach as much as 85 percent of funding its obligations.

"That is really good news," Lauzen said.

An official from IMRF will debrief the county on the full status of its pension funding in late April or May.

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