Kendall County government is positioning itself to hire up to five new employees whose salary and benefits will be paid for with federal stimulus funds under the American Rescue Plan.
The positions unanimously approved by the County Board Tuesday, Aug. 3 include a new assistant state’s attorney, an assistant public defender and a paralegal for the State’s Attorney’s Office. Board members, who sit on the Forest Preserve District Commission, additionally all signed off on hiring a new grounds maintenance worker at the forest preserve district. The county has yet to approve transferring money for that position.
A fifth job, a network security specialist, was removed from Tuesday’s agenda pending further legal review.
Though eligible for the federal stimulus, salaries for the new employees will only last through 2024 under the law, something applicants and their coworkers will be told going in.
“At that time there will not be an American Rescue Plan to pay for the person out of,” said board member Matt Kellogg at Tuesday’s meeting. “Like the other positions that we’re hiring in the county, it’s either got to fit in your budget or you get rid of it.”
Among the earliest spending from the county’s $25 million stimulus, the new hires are sorely needed at the courthouse. State’s Attorney Eric Weis and Public Defender Victoria Chuffo detailed a dire staffing situation at a county finance committee last month, citing turnover, burnout and unmanageable case loads.
Despite a growing population, hiring at the courthouse has not kept up. Kendall County has five public defenders. For comparison, DeKalb County has nine public defenders and more support staff yet far fewer residents.
“It’s just not feasible for each attorney to give maybe a half hour, 45 minutes on a case,” Chuffo said last month, adding the county ran the risk of lawsuits for ineffective counsel if more public defenders weren’t hired.
“It’s hard and that’s why people are leaving,” she said.
County officials did not have readily available the salaries for the new legal Tuesday. State’s Attorney Weis has estimated the assistant state’s attorney and paralegal will be paid $85,000 and $50,000, respectively.
As for the new forest preserve district hire, the new grounds worker will have a starting salary of $32,000. Under the federal stimulus, funds can be used to address increased use and maintenance on forest preserves caused by social distancing.