Apparently, Russell didn't like the reporting that was done after the hearing or some of the comments made by Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen, and distributed the press release to "elaborate" on what went down. Such press releases are unusual for elected officials. The release was distributed on Aug. 27.
“The best way to deal with rumors and misunderstanding is to lay out
the facts,” Russell said in the release.
Russell stated that the 2014 increase in the coroner budget is due to three factors:
1) the previous method of employee compensation for after-hours activities,
2) the new unionization of the coroner’s office employees, and
3) the proportional increase of office incidents.
"By far, the issue causing the most budgetary woes is the current way employees are compensated after-hours," the press release said. "After hours" are from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 a.m.
"Right now the Coroner’s Office pays deputies a salary, and a $90 stipend per event, for going out after 4:30 p.m. In the future, and because of the new union, deputies will not only have to be paid an on-call stipend for after-hours calls, but will also have to be paid overtime for every hour actually worked beyond his/her regular work week.
Russell determined, "after much internal analysis," that the new pay method, along with the trending increase in after-hours activity, will balloon the office’s current salary structure by about $145,000 for next year.
"This overtime pay is an inevitable change, and according to the coroner’s projections, one that is going to occur and it is not based on politics, or wasteful spending," Russell said.
Russell is asking for a budget increase of as much as $144,000 to pay for the after-hours death investigations.
“As the office holder, it is my responsibility to forecast and address this issue. To not do so, would be irresponsible of me. I have prepared my budget according to probable outcomes, not worst case scenarios,” Russell stated.
So Russell is proposing a solution to the overtime problem that would eliminate the after-hours pay altogether — the hiring of two more deputies.
Right now, the office has four full-time deputies, who work during normal business hours, and then are called out after hours as needed. By hiring two more deputies, and placing everyone on a shift, where the entire 24 hours is covered by regular work hours, Russell believes that this move will save the county money.
Russell said he needs a minimum of six deputies to make that happen. Different shifts during a day are already standard practice in places that work around the clock, including hospitals, police departments, hotels, and even 24-hour
But the Coroner’s Office has never had its employees on a shift schedule. By adding two more deputies and implementing a 12-hour shift, or some variation thereof, Russell projects that the Coroner’s Office will “save $30,000 to $40,000 in overtime costs, become much more efficient in our case management loads, and have sufficient staff rotation so that we do not burn out our deputies.”
According to a Daily Herald report, Russell and Lauzen are "at odds" over the budget.
- The Daily Herald — Kane County coroner, chairman at odds over budget
- The Beacon-News — Kane County coroner seeks budget hike
- The Kane County Chronicle — Draft Kane budget includes money for disputed new coroner deputies