Fee increases, justice reforms included in next county budget

Fee increases, justice reforms included in next county budget

URBANA — Champaign County Board members voted Tuesday to place a $36.8 million budget proposal on file that includes thousands of dollars in fee increases and new spending on a number of criminal justice reforms.

The board will vote on the budget, for the year beginning Dec. 1, in November.

But the fee increases will be on the agenda for the board's Oct. 24 meeting.

The higher fees are projected to yield $793,487 in new revenue, according to County Administrator Deb Busey.

As proposed the fee for a marriage and civil union license would increase from the current $30 to $75, the statutory maximum. The cost of a certified copy of a mariage and civil union license would increase from $11 to $16.50. Each additional copy would cost $13, up from the current $2.

Certified birth certificates would increase from $11 to $21, with additional copies costing $11, up from $3.

The cost of a death certificate would increase from $15 to $21, with additional copies at $12, up from $7.

A number of other fees in the county clerk's office — notary certification, tax redemption, forfeiture and bankruptcy certificates, and surrender certificates — also are slated to be increased.

Overall, the county clerk fee increases are projected to yield about $157,000 more annually.

The fee for recording a document in the county recorder's office would increase from $35 to $53. It is estimated to increase revenue to the county by about $576,00 a year.

In the sheriff's department four separate fees would increase: jail bond out, $20 to $34; civil process base, $30 to $32; process, $0 to $12; and civil action standby hourly fee, $54.90 to $78.

The sheriff's department fee increases are projected to bring the county about $60,000 more next year.

All of the fee increases had been recommended in a study earlier this year by Bellwether, LLC of Bloomington.

The criminal justice system changes include some $53,000 for an investigator in the public defender's office, $123,000 for two officers for a new pre-trial services program, $33,000 for a drug courts program coordinator, $120,000 for two officers to begin a classification system in the county jail, $230,000 for delinquency prevention grant funding, and $167,000 for programs for reentry and mental health services at the county jail and for various improvements to jail facilities.

Also Tuesday, board members approved a plan to borrow $900,000 in November to help the county nursing home with its cash flow, especially in case federal Medicare and Medicaid payments are delayed because of the government shutdown.

In the past the county has used tax anticipation warrants to help the nursing home's cash flow, but a new state law allows counties to directly borrow money from banks. Under terms of the resolution before the county board, the loan must be repaid with property tax proceeds by next October.

"We believe this will be a less costly alternative for the board to use" than tax anticipation warrants, said Busey.

County Treasurer Dan Welch said he was "intrigued" by the new financing option. If interest rates offered by banks are too high, he said, the county can again try tax anticipation warrants.

"I don't see any downside here," Welch said. "There actually could be a good side."

Twenty of 22 board members were present; only Democratic board Chairman Alan Kurtz and Republican Jeff Kibler were absent.

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