The total cost of Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen's proposed raises for department directors hit about $52,200 Wednesday as he brought forward his final two proposals. For perspective, that total is roughly the equivalent of the starting salary for an assistant state's attorney.
Lauzen has spent the past several weeks pitching 5-percent raises for the highest-level county employees. The raises are designed to make up for several years of pay freezes that caused many of the employees to fall far behind the compensation of their peers in neighboring counties. Lauzen has now pitched eight raises in total. He's justified them as necessary to both keep and attract high quality employees. But several board members continue to object to the raises as falling outside the regular budget process and out of touch with current economic pressures.
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Lauzen pitched raises for Development Director Mark VanKerkhoff and Office of Community Reinvestment Director Scott Berger Wednesday. VanKerkhoff's total compensation would increase by $6,485 this year under Lauzen's plan. Berger's compensation would jump $5,179. Both men are thousands of dollars below the median for compensation in their peer group in neighboring counties, according to Lauzen. Berger, in particular, is the lowest paid, despite a $96,000 base salary last year. VanKerkhoff had a base salary of $109,140.
"All raises, countywide, union, nonunion and directors will cost nothing because of the savings that were produced in other areas," Lauzen said. "We are simply making up ground."
Lauzen took the comparison a step further by saying the salary freezes for the directors would be in place a total of five years, including 2014. So the 5 percent raises he wants works out to 1 percent a year if spread across that time frame.
"That's even less than what the union agreements have provided," Lauzen said.
Fear of the ultimate impact of pending union agreements have evoked words of caution about adding new expenses from several board members throughout the process. Eight of the county's 11 union contracts are still in negotiations.
Board members Wednesday also opened the door to other salary adjustments for rank and file employees. Several board members supported calls for a full salary study of all positions. Such a study would show county officials, and all their employees, how the pay structure and job duties compare to other collar counties.
The two new raise proposals will now combine with the existing six proposals Lauzen already pitched for one overall vote by the full county board next month.