Kane County Public Defender Kelli Childress said this week she plans to ask the county board next month for raises for her staff.
Last week, Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon said he wants raises for his prosecutors, who have been in a salary freeze since 2008.
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Childress and McMahon are tired of seeing their young talent leave to work in surrounding counties that pay more.
"They're being paid more in a number of counties. But we would be satisfied being in the same ballpark," Childress said. "People love their work, but they are forced to practice somewhere else because they can't pay their bills."
Childress said assistant public defenders in her office have a starting yearly salary of $39,399, and 2007 was the last time her entire staff received a raise.
McMahon wants the county board to boost starting pay for prosecutors from $40,000 a year to $53,000 a year, a move he says will make Kane competitive with starting salaries in other counties.
Childress also plans to ask the county to increase assistant public defender pay to around $53,000, but she wants the raises to be implemented in phases, perhaps over a three-year period with the largest jump being the first year.
McMahon's push, if approved, would cost an additional $446,000 in overall personnel costs.
Childress has not yet calculated the cost of her proposal, which she is still formulating. Her office has 44 employees, which includes 39 attorneys.
The salaries of McMahon and Childress are set by statute, and they are not asking for pay increases, nor for the county to raise taxes if a batch of raises for the fiscal next year, which begins Dec. 1, is approved.
Childress has had two attorneys leave in the past two months and has had "surprised" reactions from people she's interviewed when they are informed of the starting salary. She says turnover slows down the court system as cases are reassigned, which further contributes to overcrowding of the county jail.
"We're never going to get the court system running efficiently and smoothly unless we start preserving the talent that we have right now," she said. "(Turnover) is not just clogging up the court system. It also affects the (jail) staff because they are holding our clients in custody."
Kane: Defender isn't asking for a raise for herself