Talk about raises taken behind closed doors

Updated 2/26/2014 4:45 PM

Last week, five separate proposals by Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen to give senior staff members raises included fiery debate about how the new expenses would fit into the county's overall budget. On Wednesday, discussion about a raise for a sixth employee was muted -- by closed doors.

The board's Finance Committee elected to go into closed session as Lauzen pitched $6,833 of increases to the salary and benefits of Finance Director Joe Onzick.

The combined total additional cost of the six raises Lauzen wants is slightly less than $40,000. Lauzen will add to that total next month when he brings forward raises for the remaining three department directors.

Onzick's raise would bring his salary to $120,750, a total Lauzen said is still far below the $148,000 average salary for Onzick's peers in the collar counties.

"His (position) is actually paid the lowest of all the collar counties," Lauzen said in an interview. "And our finance director provides superior performance."

Committee members spent a little more than an hour debating Onzick's raise, and raises for five other director-level employees, which Lauzen pitched to other committees last week. The committee approved all the raises with county board member Doug Scheflow as the lone "no" vote. The proposals will go before Lauzen's Executive Committee before moving on to a vote by the full board.

Lauzen said he prefers all the discussion about the raises occurs with full public access. However, he deferred to Finance Committee Chairman John Hoscheit's call for the closed session debate Wednesday. And Lauzen wouldn't rule out keeping the discussion at Executive Committee a secret from the public as well.

"I'm going to be paying attention to some things that occur between now and the Executive Committee to determine that action," Lauzen said.

He plans to bring forward seven reasons why the raises are needed at that time as well as an overall philosophy about county spending.

A spreadsheet showing where the raises fit into the 2014 budget plan indicates the majority of the added cost will be funded through $1.72 million in contingency funds the county has socked away for the year. Other major costs not originally budgeted for, such as the $827,000 cost overrun for the sheriff's new shooting range, will be funded through $3.93 million in capital project reserves.

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