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updated: 5/8/2018 8:00 PM

Lake County Board members' pay frozen, but chairman gets a boost

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  • Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor participates in a news conference to discuss tax relief for local flood victims.

      Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor participates in a news conference to discuss tax relief for local flood victims.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer, 2017

 
 

Lake County Board members voted to freeze salaries for the 14 seats up for election in November -- representing two-thirds of the board -- for four years, after a sometimes spirited debate Tuesday.

The other seven seats' salaries will be frozen for at least two years, while the board chairman will receive 3.5 percent raises each of the next two years and countywide officials will get 2.5 percent salary bumps starting in 2021.

Compensation in 2021 and 2022 for the seven seats up for election in 2020 has not been determined.

Salaries came up Tuesday because state law requires the county board to set compensation for its members, the chairman and countywide officer holders at least six months before officials take office.

Based on the election calendar, salaries for the county clerk, regional superintendent of schools, sheriff and treasurer -- positions on the November ballot -- must be set for 2019 through 2022.

The compensation issues were dealt with separately in three votes. First, the board voted 13-7 to freeze compensation for countywide officials for the next two years, with 2.5 percent increases in 2021 and 2022. Board member Linda Pedersen was absent.

The county clerk is paid $127,874 for the year; the sheriff, $162,558; treasurer, $127,874; and the county stipend for superintendent of schools is $18,410.

Chairman Aaron Lawlor's county board seat is up for election in November. His base annual salary is $90,931 and rises to $100,931 with an auto allowance and liquor commissioner stipend.

Board member Sandra Hart questioned the chairman's raise, saying she wanted comparable data to evaluate.

"This is not to say we are overpaying this position or underpaying," she said.

Lawlor said that information has been available and shows, for example, the Lake County Board chairman's salary is about $40,000 less than the counterpart in DuPage County.

"It's a full-time, demanding position with a great deal of responsibility," board member Chuck Bartels said.

Michael Rummel, who chairs the board's finance committee, added the chairman should be compensated fairly for what is expected of the position. The measure was approved 11-7 with two voting present.

Lawlor's opponent in the November election, Julie Simpson, criticized Lawlor's raise.

"It is time for new leaders who are truly committed to fiscal responsibility, real government transparency, and ending the county board's reckless practice of raising taxes to put more money in the pockets of elected officials," she said in a statement Tuesday evening.

Based on the census, county board member terms are staggered over 10 years in three groups. Some serve four, four and two years, for example, and the others are different combinations.

The initial proposal Tuesday was to keep all board members at an annual salary of $43,018 for 2019 and 2020, with raises of 2.5 percent in 2021 and 2022 for seats up for election in November. That failed with 13 against and 7 in favor.

"What we saw here just now was a whole bunch of political posturing," Lawlor said.

Some, including board member Brent Paxton, who traditionally has opposed raises, disagreed.

Lawlor said the state law involving compensation was meant to ensure salaries were in place before an election so there was no possibility of retribution or reward.

A new motion to freeze salaries of the 14 contested board seats for four years was approved 13-7.

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