The development markets are still reeling from a down economy, but Kane County is on the verge of naming a new executive director of development, creating another realm to debate the appropriate level of government employee compensation.
The county board in the coming weeks is expected to name Tim Harbaugh the new executive director of the Development Department. A board committee approved the change Wednesday. The entire board must still vote on the reorganization. If approved, the move will give the department a full-time administrator for the first time since the retirement of Phil Bus in 2009.
The salary and finances of the position have yet to be finalized and are expected to be the focus of debate.
Before he retired, Bus received an annual salary of more than $153,000.
Bus was the county's first executive director of development. In taking the new role, he moved from a $115,000 salary to a $135,000 salary. The raise coincided with Bus' additional responsibility of overseeing the county's Transportation Division as well as the Facilities, Subdivision & Environmental Management Division, of which Harbaugh is director.
Bus received a pay bump to $143,000 a year into the job. His last raise, to $153,181, came right before a salary freeze in 2007. On Bus' personnel action forms, the raise is deemed a "3 percent cost of living and merit increase."
The Transportation Division now stands on its own. Kane County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay said she's told Harbaugh his pay level for the new position is fully in the hands of the county board.
"I said to him, 'If you think you can't do this without a pay increase you need to take it to the committee,' " McConnaughay said.
She added that she believes Harbaugh has proved he's ready to take on the executive director job. Any pay raise would be born, in part, by Mill Creek residents from the special levy the county imposes for its services on the subdivision's residents. McConnaughay said it remains to be seen if that levy must increase to pay for additional administrative costs and infrastructure repairs.
The county board has taken a closer look at administrative positions and salaries since a lawsuit last year accused McConnaughay of giving pay bumps to 14 employees without board approval. Bus is one of the employees cited in the lawsuit.
McConnaughay responded to that accusation this week with a full report on all her management changes since she took office and welcomed open debate and public discussion of such changes. Harbaugh's pending promotion is the first of that ilk.
The timing of the promotion matches an increased amount of work the county is doing in Mill Creek. The county serves as the public works department for the community of more than 4,000 residents. The first major infrastructure repair and replacement projects are now surfacing in the relatively new community.
To take on that additional workload and promotion, Harbaugh's executive director position would come with a salary range between $90,000 and $135,000 per year. He now earns about $106,000 in a position that would be eliminated if the board approves the change.