With pandemic causing economic hardship, Lake County Board may freeze members' pay

  • Gary Gibson

    Gary Gibson

  • Sandy Hart

    Sandy Hart

 
 
Updated 4/1/2020 3:25 PM
This story has been updated to reflect chances in the Lake County sheriff’s total compensation. It is $162,558 this fiscal year. It will increase to $166,509 in the 2021 fiscal year and to $170,560 in the 2022 fiscal year.

Responding to the current health and economic crisis, Lake County Board members are considering freezing salaries for themselves and some other elected officials.

If approved, the freezes would be in place for either the next two or next four years, depending on the term length of the affected offices.

 

The Lake County Board's financial and administrative committee will meet remotely Thursday to discuss the proposal. Board Chairwoman Sandy Hart and financial committee leader Paul Frank proposed the freezes.

The issue is important now because the county board legally must establish salaries every other spring for its members and countywide elected officials who are up for election that fall.

Pay freezes are being discussed "in large part" because of the havoc being caused by the coronavirus pandemic, County Administrator Gary Gibson said.

The statewide stay-at-home order that's forced many businesses to shut down and restricted activity at others is going to dramatically reduce the county's revenue from sales taxes and video gambling, said board member Steve Carlson, a Gurnee-area Republican who sits on the financial committee. Officials need to re-examine the budget for this and future years, he said.

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Approving pay raises at this time "would be very foolish," Carlson said. Fellow financial committee member Linda Pedersen agreed.

"We need to look for ways to reduce our budget, not increase it," the Antioch Republican said.

Additionally, approving raises while businesses are closing and people are losing their jobs "just would not be right," Pedersen said.

Most county board members haven't received raises since the 2018 fiscal year, when their annual pay increased about 2.5% to $43,018, from $41,969. The county's fiscal year begins each Dec. 1.

The only county board member who's received a raise in recent years is Hart, who is paid more than the other members because of that role.

The chair's overall pay, including stipends for auto use and for serving as liquor commissioner, increased about 3.2% to $104,114 for the 2019 fiscal year and to $107,408 for the current fiscal year. Those increases were approved in spring 2018, before Hart, a Lake Bluff Democrat, was named chairwoman.

The proposal before the financial committee would freeze board salaries for most members at $43,018 for the 2021 and 2022 fiscal years. The chair's compensation would remain $107,408 for the next two years.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

All board members will be up for election in 2022, after district boundaries are redrawn based on U.S. census data.

The county clerk, treasurer, recorder, circuit court clerk and coroner all have $127,874 salaries this fiscal year. They haven't received pay raises since 2018.

The sheriff receives $162,558 in total compensation.

Salaries for the state's attorney and regional schools superintendent are set and paid by the state, although the schools chief gets a stipend from the county.

The recorder, court clerk and coroner are up for election this fall. Under the proposal before the financial committee, their pay would be frozen for the next four years.

Salaries for county clerk, treasurer and sheriff were set two years ago. The county clerk and treasurer are set to make $127,874 this fiscal year, $131,071 in the 2021 fiscal year and $134,348 in the 2022 fiscal year.

The sheriff's compensation will increase to $166,509 in the 2021 fiscal year and to $170,560 in the 2022 fiscal year.

If the proposed pay freezes are approved, the circuit clerk, recorder and coroner no longer will have the same salary as the county clerk and treasurer.

When asked about that potential disparity, Hart said she's sure the affected officials "share my sense of urgency to reduce the burden placed on our taxpayers."

The board could vote on the freezes in May, Gibson said. Thursday's meeting is set for 8:30 a.m. and will be streamed live on the internet at lakecounty.tv/ and on Comcast's Channel 18.

Freeze: Recorder, court clerk, coroner salaries would not get raises

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