County board approve fee increases

URBANA -- County board members overwhelmingly approved a number of increases in fees Thursday night that are projected to yield more than $800,000 in new revenue next year.

The fee increases were approved on a voice vote, with only Urbana Democrat Lloyd Carter and Rantoul area Republican Stan James voting no. They will go into effect Dec. 1.

"If we need to cut salaries, we need to cut benefits, we need to cut some other stuff, then we ought to look at that before we keep raising fees," said James.

But other board members said the fees increases were needed to support new criminal justice-related programs and to keep the county budget balanced.

The county budget is slated for a vote at the Nov. 21 meeting.

"The fee increases that are being proposed ... are on the order of $840,000. That is on the order of all the new spending that is proposed in this budget for facilities, for criminal justice-related programs, public defender, planning and zoning, basically for everything," said Urbana Democrat Chris Alix. "So if you vote no on this, I'm certainly not going to be in favor of a budget that has a $840,000 deficit in it."

Other board members defended the fee increases.

"These fees are being raised to cover the cost of the service. That seems to be a fair way of doing this," said Urbana Democrat Ralph Langenheim.

"Everybody could find one of these fees they don't like. Nobody wants to raise fees," said Champaign Democrat Michael Richards. "We looked at these in the whole and decided this is what we need to do."

"Without a lot of this money, which is hundreds of thousands of dollars, it's going to be way out of budget, not just partially out of budget," said Champaign Republican Jim McGuire.

Among the most significant increases are for marriage and civil union licenses. Their cost will rise from $30 to the state maximum of $75.

The cost of a birth certificate will increase from $11 to $21, and the cost of death certificate will rise from $15 to $21.

The fee increase that will yield the most money -- and estimated $576,000 a year -- is the cost of filing a document in the county recorder's office. It will rise from $35 to $53.

Board members defeated a motion by Champaign Republican Max Mitchell to separate discussion of the documents fee from the other fees.

"Increasing the fee will place a burden on private property owners. It's an additional tax," said Mitchell, a real estate agent.

Four different sheriff's department fees also will increase, including the cost of bonding out of jail, which will rise from $20 to $34.

A number of Democratic board members said they wanted the county to discuss possibly expandin fee waivers for low-income residents.

The board also approved, 19-0, the appointment of a new county facilities director, Dana Brenner of Champaign, the associate director of athletics at the University of Illinois from 1983 to 2012. He will be paid $85,000 a year in the position. He replaces Alan Reinhart, who retired last month.

Board members opted not to pursue a $900,000 bank loan for the Champaign County Nursing Home and instead will issue $900,000 in tax anticipation warrants in November to help the facility with its cash flow.

County Treasurer Dan Welch, in a memo to the board, said that it is believed the county will spend less money issuing tax anticipation warrants than with a bank loan. The county has used the warrants to assist the nursing home for the last five years.

"The loan as allowed under the statutory authority ... will not be 'tax exempt' or 'bank qualified,' which is likely to result in higher interest rates," he said.

Of 22 board members, only Republicans Jeff Kibler and Jon Schroeder were absent from Thursday's meeting.

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Sid Saltfork wrote on October 25, 2013 at 10:10 am

Cutting salaries, and benfits from the workers before raising fees?  Does that mean cutting salaries, and benefits followed by raising fees?  The $85,000 jobs maybe; but not all of the workers earn that money.  The new view related to government is to cut the workers, and later raise costs to the public.  

How about the 22 board members donating their time with no reimbursement before messing with the people who do the real work?