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Our View: Proposed raises require careful consideration

Published: Saturday, March 8, 2014 5:30 a.m. CST

Salary raises for highly deserving employees can be justified on a case-by-case basis, provided the money in the budget is there to support the increases.

However, the manner in which Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen is seeking to award 5 percent raises for numerous directors within the county draws some concerns.

The County Board next week will consider 5 percent salary raises for five directors: 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.

Increases for four more directors are expected to be considered in April.

We do not doubt the county has some talented managers, but nine directors performing at a high enough level to command raises in such a compact time period seems excessive.

Lauzen contends the raises are justified to bring the directors’ salaries more in line with their counterparts in nearby counties, and thereby the raises would provide an incentive for them to remain in Kane County. But attempting to keep up with other counties that might be operating under different circumstances can be a slippery slope.

Lauzen said the net impact of the raises will be only about $10,000 since the county has saved $49,000 by restructuring staff. But re-allocating that money toward raises certainly is not the only worthwhile potential use for the savings – other options should be considered as part of an overall discussion about what, if anything, should be done with the extra funds. It also is early in the year, and the county’s budget picture can change, as Coroner Rob Russell can attest after a leaking morgue freezer required repairs of about $3,500 late last year.

Supporting raises for deserving personnel is a reasonable position, but attempting to shame those who have qualms – as Lauzen did last month, saying, “We can’t send bad signals in motions and votes” – is no way to foster an open-minded debate.

Lauzen and his allies should not be surprised to see a degree of skepticism with this many raises on the table in this economy. As someone who ran on a fiscally conservative platform, he should embrace the debate.

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