By RICK HAYES email@example.com
---- — MT. VERNON — Coroner Eddie Joe Marks has shifted around money in his budget to pay deputy coroners.
Marks had requested the pay for deputy coroners be reinstated in his budget, after through the budget process, no money had been allotted for them.
Marks announced at a recent Fiscal Committee meeting an arrangement had been made through he, County Board Chairman Robert White and Treasurer Dan Knox to provide salaries for his deputy coroners, although the "arrangement" was not explained.
"It wasn't restored. The deputies will be paid out of the cremation money the county receives," Marks said this week. "The only thing the taxpayers have to pay for is my salary and autopsies," with approximately $56,000 being budgeted for those items.
According to information, Marks moved $1,000 from his beeper (cell phone) line item budget to the deputy coroner salaries line item, with Jefferson County Board approval. At the end of April, there was $450 in the deputy coroner salary line item budget, which comes out of General Corporate funds. Once the $450 is decimated, the coroner will use his coroner fees fund (cremation) to pay for deputy coroner salaries and expenses.
Marks recently learned that deputy coroner salaries could be paid out of the cremation fund.
The statute (55 ILCS 5/Section 4-7001) allows for the collection of $50 per cremation by the county. The coroner may waive, at his or her discretion, the permit fee is the coroner determines the person is indigent and unable to pay the fee or under "other special circumstances."
The statute states, "all fees under this section collected by or on behalf of the coroner's office shall be paid over the county treasurer and deposited into a special account in the county treasury. Monies in the special account shall be used solely for the purpose of electronic and forensic identification equipment or other related supplies and the operating expenses of the coroner's office."
"I was misled, and I think other area coroners have been misled by that too," Marks said. "Ever since that bill was signed by the governor other coroners have advised me it could be used for anything but salaries. I called Springfield and got it straight from the horse's mouth on what it can and can't be used for, and I was told it could be used for deputy coroner salaries."
Marks had indicated in previous County Board committee meetings he would like to purchase a van from the cremation fund, but has tabled that intention.
"I am not going to buy a van with the shape (financial) the county is in right now. I don't even want to think about it," Marks said.
Marks indicated the cremation fund is used to pay bills (expenses), which can includes office supplies, mileage to coroner calls, cell phone, continuing education and seminars and "whatever else is needed for the coroner's office and coroner calls."