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Lauzen airs concerns about Kane coroner’s request for funds

Kane County Coroner Bob Russell

Kane County Coroner Bob Russell

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Updated: March 7, 2014 1:35PM

Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen is sticking by his contention that the county should not make an exception for the county coroner’s office when it comes to funding over-budget expenses.

At the board’s executive committee meeting Wednesday. Lauzen publicly stated his position against Coroner Bob Russell’s request to use some of the $6.7 million county budgetary surplus for his department’s needs. It was a repeat of what he told Sun-Times Media in an interview the day before.

Lauzen said he wished Russell’s requests were channeled through the board’s Judicial and Public Safety Committee rather than issuing a press release requesting funds as he did last week, after the surplus was announced.

Lauzen noted how that surplus came to be.

“Every single department head except for one (Russell) came in below the budget,” he said.

Russell’s release pointed out that the $19,000 that his office came in above budget — due to more autopsies being performed and overtime payments — is a small amount in comparison to the county’s overall surplus. Russell requested the use of funds to improve technology within the coroner’s office and for the eventual need of a new facility.

The request came in the months following tense budget negotiations for 2014, which included an increase in spending.

The release included a quote from Russell asking “what’s all the fuss was about” when the county had such a large surplus.

Lauzen said Russell’s budget increased by $150,000 in spending from 2013 to 2014 in order to cover additional autopsies and overtime payments for employees. He also originally submitted a budget request that contained arithmetic errors, the chairman said.

If each department’s spending increased by the same amounts as the coroner’s, the county’s total spending would have increased by $13 million for the 2014 budget, Lauzen said. That’s an increase of 20 percent on a $68.9 million budget.

He also proposed the use of a temperature gauge for the morgue freezers that costs $350. That way, officials would have been notified immediately to what was happening with the freezer when it stopped running on a recent weekend, he said.

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