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Local Government

County Board to act on 5 percent raises

GENEVA – Two Kane County Board members said Wednesday they intend to vote against the 5 percent salary increases for five directors when the matter comes before the full board next week.

Barb Wojnicki, R-Campton Hills, told the Executive Committee it is not the right time to award these raises, which will become ongoing costs and contribute to pension boosts.

"People are stunned we're even considering this," she said.

Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen's proposal to award Public Health Director Barb Jeffers, Emergency Management Director Donald Bryant, Supervisor of Assessments Mark Armstrong, Human Resource Management Director Sheila McCraven and Finance Director Joe Onzick with 5 percent raises received backing from various standing committees last month.

Armstrong is also slated to receive a 2 percent raise because he was inadvertently excluded from an increase granted in fiscal year 2013 to other directors.

The County Board is expected to vote on the proposed raises Tuesday. Wojnicki, along with Melisa Taylor, R-Sugar Grove, indicated Wednesday they will be voting no.

Increases for four more directors are expected to be considered at the board's April 8 meeting. Together, the raises would total about $59,000.

Because the county saved about $49,000 through restructuring staff, the net financial impact is about $10,000, Lauzen said. He noted the spending is limited in the property tax levy freeze.

"This doesn't cost them one penny [more]," Lauzen said of taxpayers.

Board member Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, said she is concerned the raises are being considered at the beginning of the fiscal year, when expenses are still uncertain. For example, she said, the construction costs for the sheriff's proposed shooting range is about $1 million more than initially estimated.

"I'm afraid to keep playing Russian roulette with the budget," Castro said.

The raises are part of an effort by Lauzen to make director salaries more comparable to those offered by other counties in the region. The theory is to protect talent and reward achievement, he has said.

"What will it cost us to replace these people?" Lauzen said.

Board member Drew Frasz, R-Elburn, agreed that the board must weigh the cost of replacing them with the cost of the raises. He noted Kane County's directors are among the lowest-paid in the region and said he wouldn't want them to, at one point, feel unappreciated.

"These people run the county," Frasz said.

Lauzen said a few residents have called him about the topic. Taylor welcomed residents to also reach out to the board member representing their district.

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