Kane Board finalizes coroner budget adjustment
By Matt Brennan For Sun-Times Media December 10, 2013 7:37PM
Kane County Coroner Rob Russell looks at some of the freezers at the Kane County Morgue. | Linda Girardi~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 12, 2014 6:36AM
GENEVA — After months of disagreement and negotiations, the Kane County Board finalized a budgetary agreement on Tuesday that would raise the coroner’s budget but keep it flat at the new rate over the next three years.
The budget will increase from the current total of $757,000 to $843,000 for 2014-16, excluding any union pay raises or unforeseen changes to state statutes requiring more service.
Initially, Coroner Rob Russell requested an increase to $955,000 to be able to adequately run the office. Instead, he agreed to the commitment of immediate but consistent funding.
“The beauty of the process is in the give and take,” board Chairman Chris Lauzen said.
Russell has insisted through the negotiations that the way his predecessor Chuck West ran the office was underfunded. The increase in funding will better allow the office to make payroll, pay for autopsies and pay some outstanding bills, Lauzen said.
Lauzen was critical of the way that Russell handled a malfunction with the freezer over the Thanksgiving holiday, saying that he went to the press before notifying the county board. National outlets such as the Huffington Post picked up the story, Lauzen said.
“National attention over a $3,500 repair is not what Kane County wants to be known for,” he said.
Russell said that he did email members of the board, notifying them of the issue early on. He wanted to handle the situation smoothly so that it did not impact the budget negotiations that were taking place.
He also said that he initially asked for the $955,000 because that is what he thinks the office will need. It remains to be seen what union contracts could cost the county over the course of the agreement, he said.
Lauzen also mentioned scheduling an upcoming county board meeting where the coroner can explain the office’s investigatory role in county deaths. He wanted to make sure there are no redundancies between the coroner and the sheriff’s office duties, Lauzen said.
Russell explained that the coroner’s office investigations are centered on the body and the cause of death, and that the coroner sometimes needs to collaborate with the sheriff’s office.