Lawsuit payments and settlements are on the rise in Kane County, accounting for nearly $4 million in expenses in 2017. The cost has put a strain on the reserves used to pay for lawsuits not covered by insurance.
But county officials have found unexpected millions to help pay for future lawsuits.
State law requires the county collector/treasurer's office to maintain a tax-sale-in-error fund. The money is used to repay, with interest and costs, the buyer of a property that appeared to have a lien on it but which the county sold by mistake. Such mistakes are rare. As a result, the county built up $2.9 million in the fund. State law requires $500,000 in the fund.
County officials now have a one-time $2.4 million to use elsewhere. That's on top of the $2.1 million surplus the finance department reported from the 2017 budget.
Board Chairman Chris Lauzen prefers "exceed revenue over expenses" to "surplus" since he doesn't see the unspent funds as extra money.
The county board now has about $4.5 million extra and a plan for the money.
About $2.4 million will go to shore up the insurance liability fund. A chart from the finance department shows lawsuit payments trending upward from a low of $2.5 million to a high of nearly $4 million last year.
Other plans include about $50,000 for computers in the public defender's office. Another $250,000 would address a new contract to provide medical services that came in with a higher-than-budgeted price tag.
The plan would send $600,000 to the property tax freeze protection fund. The board raised the levy this year and last year but only to account for new parcels coming onto the tax roll.
The final $1.15 million would go into the fund reserved for capital projects, as per normal practice with surplus funds from the prior budget year.
Not included so far is any use of the money to revive the GPS/electronic monitoring program spiked by the county board in an effort to cut costs for 2018. The program provided a 24-hour tracking system for potentially dangerous people awaiting trial while avoiding the taxpayer costs of incarcerating those people.
Several county board members and candidates have told the Daily Herald editorial board in recent weeks they want to bring back the program if funds are available. So far no incumbents have brought a proposal forward to accomplish that task.
The county board is set to take a final vote on plans for the money Tuesday.