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Cashless bail, employee pay a worry for Kendall County judicial officials

YORKVILLE – Cashless bail and tight labor market forces are creating a volatile environment for the Kendall County judicial system.

That was the message members of the Kendall County Board heard time and again during budget deliberations Sept. 7 and 8.

Under the cashless bail system, persons deemed not to be a threat to the public will be released on a signature bond when the new state law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2023.

“We will see more repeat offenders,” Kendall County State’s Attorney Eric Weis told county board members.

Weis said the felony caseload is already on a pace to exceed last year’s total of 406 cases.

The big challenge facing the state’s attorney’s office is attracting and retaining prosecutors, Weis said.

Weis said one of his assistant state’s attorneys left the office for a job in Cook County for a $14,000 salary increase.

“I can’t blame someone for going elsewhere for more money,” Weis said.

In his budget plan, Weis is proposing a two-pronged “equity and cost-of-living increase” for his assistant state’s attorneys including a $5,000 across-the-board pay raise along with a 3% salary increase.

The starting salary for an assistant state’s attorney would be $59,000 under the plan.

“They need to be compensated for what they do,” Weis said. “We are in a catch-up position.”

Weis said he now receives a fraction of the number of resumes he used get for a vacancy in his office.

“We’re at a point now where we are at mission critical,” Weis said.

Kendall County Public Defender Jason Majer, like Weis, painted a picture of a woefully underpaid staff.

Kendall County Circuit Court Clerk Matthew Prochaska, who maintains all of the court files and documents, said the cashless bail system will have a major financial impact on his office.

“The elimination of cash bail will cause a reduction of about $90,000 in revenue due to the elimination of the 10% circuit clerk bond fee,” Prochaska said.

At the same time, cashless bail and the Pre-Trial Fairness Act will create additional work for his office and the need for additional deputy circuit clerks.

“I know it’s less than ideal to come to you with less revenue and needing more staff, but that’s the situation I’ve been placed in,” Prochaska said.

Prochaska is seeking to make temporary positions permanent and to add two new clerks to his office.

The court system will need to hold detention hearings, replacing the bond calls, seven-days-a-week in order to meet the requirements of the new laws, Prochaska said.

The circuit clerk noted that his budget includes staffing to support the six courthouse judges. If a judge is added to the circuit, three or four more deputy clerks would need to be hired, Prochaska said.

Kendall County Presiding Judge Robert Pilmer told the county board during his budget presentation that there are no plans for another judge, at least for another year.

“It’s not being contemplated at this time,” Pilmer said. “We’d need another courtroom.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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