Hold the line on county officeholder salaries.
It's pretty much indisputable that Champaign County government faces serious financial troubles with little prospect of things getting better anytime soon.
Indeed, given the constant struggle surrounding the operation of the county nursing home, circumstances could get dramatically worse.
In the context of that grim reality, county board members are addressing the issue of pay raises for elected county officials, specifically how much, if any, of an increase in annual salary they should receive.
The issue is complicated by the fact that pay increases for elected officials must be established before a new four-year term of office begins, because salaries cannot be altered once an officeholder's new term starts.
Even given that four-year timeline, any raises approved should be minimal — if the board approves any raises at all.
If county government was a private enterprise, pay raises would be unthinkable for one simple reason — the county can't afford them in the context of the current financial squeeze. Officeholders would just have to suck it up like their counterparts in the private sector do when their revenues go south.
It's hard to separate the officeholder from the office, but this debate isn't about personalities. Auditor Tony Fabri may take a relaxed approach to his duties, to say the least, while others in county office, like Sheriff Dan Walsh or Recorder Barb Frasca, pursue their duties with vigor.
But it's the position, not the person, that counts, and county salaries already are generous.
The county sheriff makes $104,132 a year, the circuit clerk $90,700, the auditor, coroner and recorder $86,328 and the county clerk and treasurer $83,275, and there is no shortage of people who want these jobs.
The county board chairman is paid $29,274, partly because the position is supposed to be part-time and partly because the board reduced the chairman's salary years ago when it decided to hire a full-time administrator to oversee county government.
Those are not starvation wages, and the board needs to recognize that.
There is no need to reduce any of these salaries, but there also is no reason to increase them, particularly that of the circuit clerk. A pay freeze is in order. If that seems too heartless, board members could approve a minimal increase to begin two years into the start of the next term.
Champaign County government simply does not have enough money, and there's no sense pretending it does.