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In wake of layoffs, Rock Island County considers raises for elected officials

In wake of layoffs, Rock Island County considers raises for elected officials

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Less than a week after laying off 15 deputy clerks in the Rock Island County circuit clerk's office and two legal assistants in the state's attorney's office, county officials are considering pay increases for elected offices, including Circuit Clerk Tammy Weikert

During a Tuesday morning teleconference meeting, members of the county finance and personnel committee approved advancing two resolutions that will give pay increases for the county auditor, circuit clerk, coroner and recorder from a base pay of $91,800 to $93,636. Health insurance and other benefits pushes the total annual compensation for each official to more than $105,000. 

The resolution states the auditor, circuit clerk, coroner and recorder will receive 2% salary increases again on Dec. 1, 2022, from $93,636 to $95,509. 

"This is the biannual resolution to set office holder salaries for the county," County Administrator Jim Snider said. "The change occurs when the office is up for election. This is not based on who's in office; it's based on who's up for election."

County Treasurer Louisa Ewert clarified the raises amount to $1,836 per official, for an additional $7,344 per year for the four offices combined. 

Sheriff Gerry Bustos noted the salaries have to be set six months prior to the election. 

"I can tell you without a doubt that all of our county-wide elected officials — especially now — are working more and having to do more with less," Bustos said. "Any thought that we are somehow making more than other parts of the state simply isn't true.

"Although I know this is a very odd time to be coming to the board and looking at pay increases for just these few people, I think it's also very much in line with the increases everyone has gotten throughout the county, regardless of where you work, and our elected officials deserve it."

Assistant state's attorneys will receive a 2% pay raise according to the memorandum of understanding. The MOU does not include State's Attorney Dora Villarreal, whose base salary of $170,824 is set by the state. 

County board members' pay will remain at $2,400 annually, plus $100 per county board meeting and $100 for committee meetings.

All board members sit on at least one committee. With two scheduled board meetings per month and one committee meeting, board members receive at least $500 in monthly compensation. Committee chairs are paid $290 per month in addition to compensation for regular board meetings. 

The memorandum of agreement pertaining to the state's attorney's office gives a 2% raise for employees retroactive to Dec. 1, 2019 through Nov. 30, 2020. The document, signed April 7, states, "The COVID-19 world pandemic has wrought chaos and uncertainty to many aspects of municipal governance; and the parties' desire to help stabilize the office of the Rock Island County state's attorney during these uncertain times."

Several committee members questioned whether raises were appropriate during a time when county finances are stretched thin and people have lost jobs. 

"I think we need to be careful because we don't know what's going to happen in July, August or September," Rod Simmer said. "If anything, we need to hang on right now until things are fully open, so be conscientious with your vote."

Assistant State's Attorney Patricia Castro said the amount of raises going to staff in the state's attorney's office equals about $10,000. If the board does not ultimately approve the resolutions, the continuation of the labor contracts will be affected, she said.  

"It's $10,000 and it doesn't seem like a lot, but if you've ever built a house and you make ten $10,000 decisions, all of a sudden you're at $100,000 and that's a lot more money," Angie Normoyle said. "This is a tough situation."

Castro said the state's attorneys' pay increases have already been included in the budget. 

"Dora (Villarreal) has already signed the agreement, so she would be reneging on that (contract)," Castro said. "It would create all kinds of labor issues, more litigation; I would not advise it. It's more in terms of a ratification. (Villarreal) has already negotiated. This is the agreement both parties have put forth. This is simply a one-year extension."

County Board Chairman Richard Brunk reminded committee members the raises are already included in the budget. 

"It doesn't seem like the way we should be doing business," Dewayne Cremeens said. 

"Unless we reopen the budget, those funds have been budgeted," Brunk said. "The elected official is responsible for managing those funds. The costs are already in the budget."

"We are asking other departments to cut and trim their budgets," Simmer said. "I think they can do their part."

The full county board will vote during Wednesday night's committee of the whole meeting on whether to advance the raises to next week's regular meeting or reject the pay increases.

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