County board considers increases for several fees

County board considers increases for several fees

URBANA — A number of fees could be increased under proposals brought before the Champaign County Board on Tuesday night.

The board, meeting as a committee of the whole, took no action on the fee increases but could do so, for at least some of the recommendations, as early as September. Others could be incorporated into the board's budgeting process and could go into effect Dec. 1.

Among the suggested increases:

— From $10 to $17 per civil filing for the county law library fund fee, which also supports the operation of the Self-Representation Help Desk at the courthouse. The fee has been $10 since October 2003. Under state law the county can collect up to $21 for the law library fee.

— A two-tiered increase in the court document storage fee, now $5 and assessed on virtually all court cases. Under the proposal the fee, which has been $5 since 1994, would increase to $10 for small claims civil cases and traffic offenses that do not require a court appearance. For all other cases, though, it would be $15, which is the statutory maximum.

Circuit Court Clerk Katie Blakeman said Tuesday that the fund is projected to go into the red without an increase in the next year. Comparably sized counties in downstate Illinois, such as Peoria, Rock Island, Sangamon and St. Clair, charge $15.

— Another two-tiered increase for the court automation fund, which is now $10 and is assessed on virtually all court cases. It has been $10 for almost four years. The fee would increase to $15 for most cases, but would remain at $10 for small claims and traffic offenses that do not require a court appearance.

Without an increase in the fee, Blakeman said, her office would not be able to begin replacing its aging mainframe computer until 2016. Comparably sized counties, such as Macon, Vermilion, Peoria, Rock Island, Sangamon and St. Clair, charge $15.

Further, the board reviewed a "cost of services" study from a Bloomington consulting company for potential fee increases in the offices of the county clerk, recorder and sheriff.

The report suggested potential increases of up to $178,000 in the county clerk's office, including higher costs for birth certificates, copies of birth certificates, copies of marriage and civil union licenses and certificates of authority.

Potential increases of up to $125,000 were identified in the sheriff's office, including higher bonding, booking and civil process fees.

The recorder's office has a potential of $579,525 in higher fees, most of it attributable to document recording, according to the consultant, Bellwether LLC of Bloomington.

The money from any of the fee increases would go into the county's general fund, noted County Clerk Gordy Hulten.

Also Tuesday, the committee of the whole voted to refer to the full board a recommendation to seek new bids in September under the county's electrical aggregation contract. Andrew Levy, the county's sustainability coordinator, said the county's energy consultant believes that electricity prices will be at their lowest for the next several months in September.

The county's current electrical aggregation contract, which covers more than 8,600 customers in unincorporated Champaign County, expires next June.

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