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Government Local

County debating pay raises for elected officials

Clerk says officeholders 'aren't the top-heavy part of the budget'

SYCAMORE – What should DeKalb County elected officials be paid for their positions?

Salaries for elected officials currently in office cannot be changed, but County Board members are debating the salary schedule for officeholders elected in November 2018. The positions up for election include county treasurer, an office now held by Christine Johnson; county clerk and recorder, which is held by Doug Johnson; and sheriff, held by Roger Scott.

The clerk and the treasurer each receive $88,513 in salary a year, while the sheriff gets $126,343, records show. The total compensation will vary because of benefits and county contributions to the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund and Social Security.

Some on the board want to freeze those salaries for four years starting after the 2018 election.

The discussion is taking place at the same time the board is cutting spending in order to pass a balanced budget. Board Chairman Mark Pietrowski, D-District 3, said it would be a show of leadership for the elected officials to not take a raise while services are being cut.

“I think it should be across the board no raises,” Pietrowski said.

The proposal on the table is for no raises in fiscal 2019 and fiscal 2020, then 2 percent each year for fiscal 2021 and fiscal 2022. The issue was tabled by the finance committee until its November meeting, but it was addressed again at an executive committee meeting.

Pietrowski said that balancing the budget means if elected officials receive raises, money will have to be taken away somewhere else.

“We’re cutting $9,000 out of senior services in this budget,” he said. “There are things I value more than elected officials’ raises.”

Board Vice Chairman Tracy Jones, R-District 1, said county government was in uncharted territory with its finances.

“I don’t enjoy saying ‘no pay increases at all,’ ” he said. “We need to go to some extra lengths to curb the situation. I don’t enjoy doing it, but it’s something we have to do at this point.”

For the past four years, the County Board chairman and vice chairman have received no pay increases, said finance committee Chairman Paul Stoddard, D-District 9. Board members who receive an $85 per diem have no scheduled pay increase through at least 2020.

Any new pay rate does not take effect until the beginning of the next term.

“The rule is we have to set salaries beyond the next term of whoever is in there now so there’s no thought that if we don’t like someone, we cut their salary, or if we really like somebody and we give them a raise,” Stoddard said. 

Johnson, the current county clerk, said he believes elected officers should receive some raises, but doesn’t want the discussion to become personal.

“This is numbers, and numbers shouldn’t get emotional,” he said. “I’m arguing strictly based on the position and not the person.”

He said the three offices currently under consideration didn’t get raises two out of the past four years.

“We took our hit, and we didn’t cry or snivel, knowing we’d come to the point we’re at,” Johnson said.

County employees with union contracts have raises built in that average 2 percent a year. Johnson said he’d hoped the elected offices would keep pace with other employees in the county.

“Things go smoothly,” Johnson said. “It’s because of the people in charge. We know how to manage, and we know how to lead.”

Pietrowski said he wanted to freeze elected officials’ pay the last time it came up for review, but the effort failed. He said he doesn’t know what his chances are this time around, either.

“These salaries are already nearly twice the median income in the county,” he said.

If the current proposal on the table were accepted, elected officials would earn a combined $13,000 more in 2021 than in 2017.

“Elected officials aren’t the top-heavy part of the budget,” Johnson said. He declined to say which part of the budget was top-heavy.

The finance committee will discuss the matter at its November meeting, when it has to make a decision.

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