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New law has McHenry County tearing through jury duty budget

September 14, 2015

WOODSTOCK, Ill. (AP) — A new Illinois law that more than doubled what Illinois jurors are paid and reduced the size of civil juries is starting to affect county budgets in the state.

The McHenry County Board will consider Tuesday if it should transfer $100,000 to replenish the fund it uses to pay jurors. The fund is almost empty and there are 2 1/2 months still left in the county’s 2015 fiscal year with at least three major jury cases expected to be heard during that time, The (Crystal Lake) Northwest Herald (http://bit.ly/1KlQsYc ) reported.

The law requires counties to pay jurors $25 for the first day of service and $50 for each additional day. Counties previously were allowed to pay jurors as little as $4 a day, causing Illinois to rank near the bottom of U.S. states when it comes to state-set rates.

Former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn signed the measure in December. Bill sponsors said the measure was aimed at compensating jurors because state law doesn’t require employers to pay wages during jury duty.

The increase has proven to be a big problem for McHenry County. The new law means a 300 percent increase from the county’s old rate and county records show $153,000 of the juror-pay fund’s $160,000 budget has been spent.

“It’s another requirement that Springfield passes along that’s costing the taxpayers more money, and we have to somehow come up with the dollars to fill the requirement by the state,” said, Mike Skala, a Huntley Republican who is the McHenry County Board’s Finance and Audit Committee chairman.

The county spent about $145,000 on jury costs in 2014, which was the last full year under the old rates. Court Administrator Dan Wallis estimates 2016 costs under the new rates will more than double to $370,000.

Of the $100,000 the county could transfer about $70,000 comes from the county’s computer maintenance fund and $30,000 from the professional services fund.

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Information from: The Northwest Herald, http://www.nwherald.com

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