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Coroner, clerk get raises, but board members don't

SYCAMORE - The DeKalb County Board on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to freeze members' pay while narrowly awarding one-time raises of nearly 10 percent to the coroner and circuit clerk. During a sometimes contentious meeting in which members repeatedly called for points of order and at times were not entirely sure about what they were preparing to vote on, board members such as Vince Faivre, R-DeKalb, argued that the coroner's and circuit clerk's raises were unwarranted at a time when most people living in DeKalb County are seeing much smaller wage increases. "What we did as a county board we are asking the other officials to do only a portion of," said Joe Wiegand, R-Fairdale, after the vote to freeze board member compensation. But County Administrator Ray Bockman argued that the 9.6 percent raises for the circuit clerk and the half-time coroner's position were justified given that a third of those raises would go to a deferred compensation fund that the employees wouldn't see until they left their jobs. James MacMurdo, R-DeKalb, pointed out that while it was deferred, it was still pay. "That money will be waiting for him or her," he said. The raises bring the clerk's salary to $68,850 and the coroner's salary to $42,200 in the fiscal year beginning Dec. 1. Absent the money going to the deferred compensation fund, both positions will get 6.6 percent raises - well above the current rate of inflation. Bockman said the raises took into account overall inflation since 1994 and a desire to make the two positions' pay comparable to that of the county treasurer and of the county clerk. In a separate vote, the board approved leaving salaries for the county board chairman and vice chairman unchanged from 2003 levels at $7,200 and $2,400, respectively. Board committee chairpersons will continue to get $100 a month, an amount that has remained unchanged since at least 2001. The board had previously voted to increase regular board members' pay in fiscal years 2005 and 2006, from $60 per meeting to $70 per meeting. And Wednesday night, they voted to remain at those levels in fiscal years 2007 and 2008. "I just hope that we can keep the focus on serving the public rather than the numbers," said Julia Fullerton, R-DeKalb. The final vote on the coroner's and clerk's pay followed a pair of narrowly failed motions that would have cut the proposed increases. One of the motions would have cut the circuit clerk's pay increase by as much as $3,350. The board was forced to make a decision on salaries Wednesday because they must be set 180 days before an election. Some members complained that they weren't given enough time to make the decision - to which Bockman responded that no one on the board brought up the issue of pay until he did. Jeff Metzger, R-Sandwich, called that explanation "bogus" and argued that it is largely the responsibility of full-time county staff to let board members know of such pending deadlines. Bockman bristled at the accusation, saying, "My job is carrying out your wishes." Chris Rickert can be reached at crickert@pulitzer.net.

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