By Jim Allen
Chair Tom Hettinger called the November meeting of the Budget and Finance Committee to order at 9:00. Hettinger turned to States Attorney Kate Watson to clarify the County Board’s position regarding the request by the Probation Department to reimburse employees for courses taken to further education. This meeting continued discussion that took place during the Personnel, Legal, and Management meeting on 11-2-21.
As mentioned in the column for the PLM on 11-02-21, it was not until the fourth request for reimbursement was made that an employee brought it to the attention of the County Clerk. At that time the clerk contacted County Board Chair Don Munson who denied the request for reimbursement. Jason Pantier was not contacted by Munson regarding this matter.
Pantier bases his position on the Douglas County Probation Department Policy which has been in place for over 25 years. On page B-10 “Furthering Education”, it states that “Education on the job is an encouraged endeavor. – – – Courses for which reimbursement may be made shall be limited to those which can directly benefit the employees’s job performance. Approval shall be contingent upon there being sufficient funds in the departmental budget for reimbursement.” Pantier explained that at one time there were not sufficient funds in his budget for furthering education. However, when funds were available, he felt that the policy not only allowed, but encouraged employees to pursue education that would benefit their job performance. The policy also obligated an employee who was reimbursed for such courses to remain with the department one year after completion of any class taken. Pantier also submitted a letter from the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts showing that his budget was approved by them. In the letter, the AOIC stated that “The department’s dedication toward ensuring staff have completed the training hours required by Administrative Office standards is commendable.”
Pantier also presented the Annual Probation Plan Signatories document. This document was signed on 1-5-21 by Jason Pantier, Director of Court Services/Chief Probation Officer and Don Munson, Chairperson for the County Board. It was also signed by Richard L. Broch, Chief Circuit Judge for the Sixth Circuit, on 1-31-21. Since the budget was acknowledged by all parties, and a line item for “Training, Memberships, Dues, and Subscriptions,” Pantier was confident that the courses would be reimbursed. Pantier has further stated that the refusal of reimbursement was more a matter of processing the request so that payment was not made from the General Fund.
Kate Watson presented the position that even though the probation budget was sufficient for paying for the courses and that the probation budget did allow for the courses, the county was not required to reimburse the probation department employees. At this time the County’s position is that the Probation Department is responsible for reimbursement to the General Fund for the courses taken. The County’s reasoning rests on the lack of reference in minutes of the County Board allowing reimbursement from the General Fund for college classes not required to maintain a position.
The next order of business concerned the compensation for the County Board Chair and County Board members. The committee suggested that pay for board members be increased to $100.00 per subcommittee meeting and regular board meetings. The Chair of each subcommittee would receive $125.00 per meeting. The County Board Chair would receive $5000.00 per year and compensation for each subcommittee of which they were a member or chair. This will be proposed at a public hearing after which the the full board will accept or reject the resolution setting the compensation. The compensation will be set for ten years, until the next reorganization of the county board.
The reorganization will be based on the last census and terms will be set by a lottery.
County Clerk Judi Pollock presented a summary of insurance premiums for the County.
The total increase in premiums is 8.5 percent. The premiums for Commercial Property, Law Enforcement Liability, Automobile and Workers Compensation were lower by 9 percent to19 percent. However, this was offset by increases in Public Officials Liability 258 percent and Cyber Liability 223 percent.
Nathan Burton was present to propose an increase in court filing fees. These fees help to supplement the costs of the Law Library in the courthouse. The Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts provides the law library as a service to the county, and it may be used by the public as well as anyone in the court system. The cost of maintaining the library is $22,000.00 per year which includes all updates necessary. The court filing fees help to defray costs in this matter. Although the State allows up to $20.00 per filing Burton is asking for an increase in fees from $6.00 to $8.00. This increase would only affect civil cases. After discussion, the committee voted to recommend that the filing fee be increased to $20.00 to offset some of the cost of the Law Library.