URBANA — Champaign County Board members will begin considering possible pay raises for countywide elected officials, such as the sheriff, treasurer and auditor, when they meet Tuesday night.
The county board will hold a committee of the whole meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Brookens Administraive Center, 1776 E. Washington St., U.
The board isn't under any serious time constraint to make a decision, County Administrator Deb Busey pointed out in a memo to board members. By state law the board must approve a new salary schedule by May, at least 180 days before the terms of office begin for several of the countywide officeholders.
A comparison of salaries at four other comparably sized Illinois counties shows that for the most part the Champaign County officials are paid less than the average in Peoria, McLean, Sangamon and Rock Island counties. Only Sheriff Dan Walsh, who makes $104,132 annually, is paid more than the average of the sheriffs in the other counties. Their salaries range from $108,942 to $92,500.
The lowest paid official in Champaign County, according to the comparison, is county board Chair C. Pius Weibel, who gets 78 percent of the average of the other county board chairs. The average is skewed, however, by the $97,00 salary paid the Rock Island County Board chair. The others make between $10,245 and $26,872. Weibel, who is paid $29,274, is retiring from the board in December.
The other countywide officials in Champaign County make between 94.55 percent and 95.7 percent of the four-county average.
Busey's memo offers board members three options for setting raises over the next four years. Under the most financially conservative plan, the circuit clerk (currently paid $90,700), auditor ($86,328), coroner ($86,328) and recorder ($86,328) would have their salaries frozen for the next four years. And the county clerk (now making $83,275), treasurer ($83,275) and sheriff ($104,132) would receive 2 percent increases in each of the next four years.
Under the most costly plan the officeholders in the first group would get no raises in the first two years and increases of 2 percent in each of the next two years. The officeholders in the second group would get 2 percent raises in the first two years and 4 percent raises in the next two years.
Urbana Democrat Brendan McGinty, who chairs the board's finance committee, said he hopes board members act conservatively. Even though the county's fund balance improved during the fiscal year that ended Nov. 30, much of that was because of the infusion of one-time revenue.
"Our real net for the year, that is not from one-time revenue, was about $300,000. That's good but it does not replenish all the punishment we've taken for the last several years," McGinty said. "And we've cut so much that we're going to have to make some serious investments in the not-too-distant future in technology, particularly a new accounting system. And the court systems need to do a replacement or at least or serious enhancement. Plus we're looking at a new jail, and just the maintenance of facilities that have become dilapidated."
Board members who believe the county can afford generous raises "just aren't seeing the big picture," he said.
"We have been a step ahead of this enormous financial challenge for a long time because we've played it as conservatively as we have. Even then we still had cutbacks in personnel. We just experienced less painful ones, relatively speaking, because we were on top of it," McGinty said. "I worry about board members seeing those fund balances starting to grow and thinking that we have some surplus money to play with. We don't."