Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen Wednesday unveiled the third of what might be as many as nine raises for high-level employees who report directly to him. Both Lauzen and Finance Director Joe Onzick assured county board members there is money to move around in the budget that will cover the raises. However, costs for expenses not expressly accounted for in the 2014 budget are mounting.
Lauzen began to unveil plans for raises of up to 5 percent for department directors this week. There are nine total directors, but Lauzen has refused to detail his entire proposal until county board committees cast initial votes on each of the individual position raises. That lack of an overall picture raised alarms for several county board members who still remember being sued when those same director positions received large raises under the previous administration. But the lack of ferocity of the questions directed at Lauzen Wednesday, as compared to earlier in the week, stemmed from board members acquiescing to the idea that Lauzen would present aggregate totals before a final vote on the raises.
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On Wednesday, Lauzen pitched a 5 percent raise for Sheila McCraven, the county's director of human resources. The raise would add $6,076 in costs to the 2014 budget and bring McCraven's salary up to $127,596. In pitching the raise, Lauzen said even that salary is too low. Several years of pay freezes have left Kane County's top-level employees behind their peers in neighboring counties, Lauzen said.
"The reason we are behind the curve on executive compensation is those past actions," Lauzen said. "This raise does not even catch Sheila up to the average of the eight county positions that are similar. Lauzen's research indicates the average salary for human resource directors in area counties is about $129,000. That factors in salaries from much larger counties, such as Cook and DuPage and smaller counties, such as McHenry.
The three raises Lauzen has pitched so far will be funded via a mix of contingency funds, savings realized by the county switching to a self-funded health insurance plan, existing cash on hand in department accounts and by tapping into surplus funds in the county's overall insurance liability account.
While the raises are not unexpected costs, they do add to a mounting total of expenses that were not laid out in the 2014 budget.
County board members already committed to direct $514,000 of savings into raises averaging 2 percent for nonunion employees (excluding directors). The three raises Lauzen has pitched so far add about $15,821 to the expenses. That total doesn't include the $75,380 in additional salary expenses created when Lauzen converted one director position into two jobs and hiring a new supervisor for the Mill Creek subdivision who will double as Lauzen's construction and infrastructure expert.
The budget will also see strain from Lauzen's recent warning that the Kane County Division of Transportation might blow its budget by up to $750,000 because of the harsh winter, and Sheriff Pat Perez' announcement of $883,000 in unplanned expenses to construct his new shooting range.
Add all those up, and its about $2.24 million in money that county officials will have to cover with savings or efficiencies in the 2014 budget so far. There are also six director-level positions Lauzen has not yet announced raises for and several union contracts that are still in negotiations.