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Article updated: 9/3/2012 9:14 PM

Proposed Kane County pay hikes may hinge on financial forecasts

By James Fuller

Despite a couple weeks of debate about raises and bonuses for nonunion Kane County employees, officials showed last week they don't know if there is enough money to do either.

But a tug-of-war over money for salaries may ensue even if county officials can dig up the extra cash.

A proposal to give nonunion county employees a 2 percent bonus at the end of this fiscal year has been on the table for about two weeks. It pairs with a plan for permanent 2 percent salary increases for those same employees in the 2013 budget.

But with no finance director to make projections on how much money the county will have at the end of the year or in 2013, officials don't yet know if they have the cash to back up either of those proposals. Most nonunion staff haven't received a raise since 2008.

Even before the bonus and raise plan, some county departments have been vocal about low salaries creating a revolving door of employees. The Kane County state's attorney's office, Public Defender's Office and the Information Technology Department have asked for raises separate from -- but not necessarily exclusive of -- the proposed bonuses and 2013 raises.

Finance Committee Chairman Jim Mitchell's plan does not include state's attorney employees among the workers receiving 2 percent bonuses. Even without them, the proposed pay hikes and bonuses would cost about $846,000.

Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon pushed for a $13,000 increase to the starting salaries of his assistants months ago. That proposal alone would cost about $446,000.

Information Technology Department staff want to give out merit raises of up to 3 percent. The raises, which would be given this year, would add $40,000 to the budget. Carrying those raises over to 2013 adds $80,000 to the proposal.

The cost of proposed raises for public defender's staff has never been fully delineated. Public Defender Kelli Childress has said she'd like her assistants have starting salaries of about $53,000, an increase of about $13,000.

County board members said they want to deal with the raises and bonuses as supplemental proposals to the overall county budget. Departments are being asked to present flat budgets that eat the cost of increases to health and dental benefits. From there, each department with any expenses beyond the dollars received this year will create a priority list for county board members to consider.

Meanwhile, the consultant the board hired to create end-of-year and 2013 revenue projects should have forecasts in the next couple weeks. That will allow the board to know how much money it has to fund any salary bumps.

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