Citing instances where some deputies are making nearly as much pay as their bosses, the DuPage County sheriff's office is requesting extra funding to increase the salaries of the department's supervisors.
But with the sheriff's office and the county's human resources department providing conflicting salary information, county board members say they can't decide whether the expenditure of more than $536,000 a year is justified.
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The proposed raises for sheriff's office supervisors were discussed at length on Tuesday morning as members of the board's finance committee reviewed the department's proposed budget for the next fiscal year.
The sheriff's office is requesting a spending plan totaling more than $41.6 million. The department also wants additional money for the next five years to widen the gap between what deputies and supervisors make.
"Supervisors are not being adequately compensated for the work that they are mandated to perform," said James Kruse, the sheriff's administrative bureau chief. "We need to compensate them appropriately."
Kruse said deputies have had consistent salary increases because of union negotiations. Their supervisors aren't represented by a union and don't get the same amount of overtime pay.
As a result, deputies are "almost surpassing" supervisors in terms of pay, according to Sheriff John Zaruba.
"All we are asking for is just compensation," Zaruba said. "Nothing more."
Under the proposal, pay for sergeants and lieutenants would start at $61,646 a year and $69,043 a year, respectively. Starting pay for deputies is $52,022 annually.
Zaruba said pay for supervisors needs to be increased to prevent them from unionizing. He said there was a movement about a year ago to unionize the supervisors. But that has since quieted down.
"They trust the sheriff," Zaruba said. "They trust the board. They don't have a union to speak for them as our (deputies) do. They have the sheriff to speak for them. That's why we're speaking for them."
However, county board members were unable to agree on whether the pay hike for supervisors is needed because of conflicting numbers.
According to the county's human resources department, sergeants generally are paid 13 percent more than the average pay of a deputy. The gap grows to 30 percent when the base salary of lieutenants is compared to what deputies make.
But the sheriff's office says its data shows the gap is narrower. They say the highest paid sergeant within the department makes only about 2 percent more than the top paid detective.
"Nobody wants unionization," county board member Robert Larsen said. "Everybody wants a department where sergeants and lieutenants are fairly compensated. The question is, 'What are the numbers?'"
County board member Sam Tornatore said officials with the human resources department and the sheriff's office need to work together to get information the board can use to make a decision. "I want to make a policy decision based on numbers," he said.
The discussion is expected to continue at a future board meeting.
Meanwhile, board members have until Nov. 30 to approve a final draft of the county budget. The county's fiscal year starts Dec. 1.