Kane County is looking into charging inmates rent for the time they spend in jail. Doing so could be one way to help offset a $4.5 million budget deficit the county faces going into the new fiscal year, Kane County board chairman Chris Lauzen said.
Lauzen said the measure could be a good way to spare property taxpayers more expenses.There are no specifics on the proposal yet, but should a measure pass, it would only affect inmates who had the means to pay for their incarceration — Lauzen said the county would take care to not burden any families with the costs.
“I don’t think that it’s going to be a lot of the prisoners but any prisoner who wins a lottery or that does have those kinds of resources, certainly we ought to use that tool within the state statutes to help balance the budget,” Lauzen said.
The measure would primarily be an act of good faith toward constituents, Lauzen said, as the county board isn’t sure how much money the measure could generate.
“It could be substantial, and even if it’s not, it’s a good assurance for the people we work for that we are doing everything we can to maintain the freeze on the property tax levy we’ve had in Kane County for the past five years,” Lauzen said.
Kane County has begun research into the proposal and Lauzen expects to have details on precisely how lucrative it would be within 60 days. Regardless, he said virtually everyone who has heard about the proposal has voiced support.
“I remember constituents and other people saying to me ‘Why haven’t we done this earlier?’” Lauzen said.
Max Green reports for the WBEZ news desk. Follow him @maxraphaelgreen.