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Algonquin Township officials amend budgets to cover bills

Sarah Nader - snader@shawmedia.com
Algonquin Township Trustees Rachael Lawrence (left) and Dan Shea talk during Wednesday's Algonquin Township meeting in Crystal Lake Dec. 13, 2017. Algonquin Township officials have amended their road district and town budgets to cover about $1.5 million in unanticipated costs – including more than $300,000 spent on lawyers working on in-house legal battles.
Sarah Nader - snader@shawmedia.com Algonquin Township Trustees Rachael Lawrence (left) and Dan Shea talk during Wednesday's Algonquin Township meeting in Crystal Lake Dec. 13, 2017. Algonquin Township officials have amended their road district and town budgets to cover about $1.5 million in unanticipated costs – including more than $300,000 spent on lawyers working on in-house legal battles.

CRYSTAL LAKE – Algonquin Township officials have amended their road district and town budgets to cover about $1.5 million in unanticipated costs – including more than $300,000 spent on lawyers working on in-house legal battles.

At a Wednesday meeting, trustees transferred money from two of the township’s surplus funds to reshape the budget to pay for legal fees, engineering on roadwork and other operational costs.

It’s uncommon for townships to amend their budgets this late in the fiscal year – but it was a urgent move that has left some township officials frustrated.

“In my 30 years as an elected official, I never had anything that was this out of hand,” Trustee Dan Shea said.

“It’s unusual, but you couldn’t have predicted the legal fees,” Township Supervisor Charles Lutzow said. “We had outrageous legal fees.”

In total, township officials amended the road district budget from $2.5 million to $3.4 million, using $870,870 from the highway department’s surplus fund.

The largest transfer accounted for $564,870, which officials injected into the road district’s road maintenance fund – and $220,000 went into a fund for engineering services, amending the line item to $250,000.

Former Highway Commissioner Bob Miller had set the engineering budget at $30,000.

Much of that money will go to pay for roadwork and emergency bridge repairs that posed safety problems, at places such as the Edwards Road Bridge and the Dennis Avenue Bridge, Lutzow said.

“Some of that is understandable,” Trustee Rachael Lawrence said.

Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser could not be reached to comment on the specifics of how that money is being used.

The road district also transferred $75,000 to pay for salaries in the maintenance department. Trustees said they approved the transfer but do not know where the money is going.

“I cannot tell you where that money is going,” Shea said. “I did not get a piece-by-piece breakdown on that.”

On the township side, officials increased the town budget from $1.8 million to $2.5 million.

The bulk of those dollars – $205,000 – will cover legal battles brewing inside the township.

Trustees Dave Chapman and Melissa Victor could not be reached for comment.

It wasn’t the first time trustees have had to juggle money to pay for bills.

In November, township trustees approved a transfer of $194,870 from the road district’s $3 million reserve fund into a fund to cover the highway commissioner’s legal bills.

The move unsettled some township officials and several residents upset about how the most populous municipality in McHenry County has been spending tax dollars.

In August, the trustees approved the transfer of $70,000 into Gasser’s fund for legal counsel. Trustees also transferred $35,000 from the town fund to cover Clerk Karen Lukasik’s line item for legal services.

Section 3 of the Illinois Municipal Budget Law authorizes transfers between the various items within any fund as long as the transfer does not exceed 10 percent of the total amount appropriated for the fund.

The township’s road and bridge budget at the start of the fiscal year was $2.3 million, according to records. The amended budget allotted $290,370 for legal counsel.

Gasser has spent $242,414, according to December financial records.

The road district’s total amended budget is $3.4 million, and the township’s amended budget is $2.5 million.

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