Pay freeze is right way to go
Elected officials have a duty to spend carefully and make corrections when they discover mistakes.
Money is tight, but that's not the only reason members of the Champaign County Board acted properly this week when they tentatively decided to freeze the salaries of four elected officials over the next four years.
For whatever reason — either financial irresponsibility by the board or the miracle of compound interest — the salaries of the county auditor, coroner, recorder of deeds and circuit clerk got ahead of where they should be.
Information presented to board members showed that those public officials received a 69 percent pay increase over the past eight years. That's more than 8 percent per year — way too much.
It was our view that these elected officials' pay needed to be frozen because Champaign County is operating under such tight financial conditions. Given the uncertain future, there was no way to justify increases when the county lacks the money to adequately fund its most basic obligations.
But, given the past excessive pay raises, the salaries would deserve to be frozen even if the county was flush.
Almost everyone, of course, feels they can use a pay raise, including elected officials. But these officeholders are well-compensated for the jobs they ran for election to fill.
The auditor, recorder of deeds and circuit clerk who take office in December will be paid $86,328 while the new circuit clerk will receive $90,070.
The salaries of the county clerk and treasurer are unaffected by this pay freeze. Because they are filled on a different election cycle, the current officeholders are only midway through terms that will expire in December 2014.
The county clerk and treasurer are paid $83,275 a year, a sum scheduled to increase in the next two years. Board members will need to apply a four-year freeze to those salaries as well.
These are hard economic times that have cost many people their jobs and forced others to endure to endure salary cuts and furlough days. That grim reality requires everyone to adjust accordingly, including those in county government.