Final edits made to DeKalb County budget

By Peter Schuh

The DeKalb County Financial Committee met Wednesday night to make its last edit of the county’s budget for the 1993 fiscal year before it comes up for final approval.

The committee approved next year’s budget after cutting over $400,000 from the budget, easily exceeding the committee’s intended cut of $250,000.

Committee Chairman George Daugherty said, “We’ve tried to, and have stayed, in the guidelines which we had set out, and actually hit below that mark.”

The committee also set the cost of living increase at 2 percent, while the estimated regional inflation is 3.1 percent. They also adjusted the employee merit cap from 4 to 3 percent.

Board member and NIU student Thomas Gary was not pleased with the adjustments.

“We’re saying by our actions that we don’t really care much about what they (the county employees) do,” he said.

Gary also said that the cost of paying rising health insurance costs isn’t addressed in the budget. At present, these costs would be tacked onto the lowered pay increase for county employees, and non-union employees would be hit particularly hard.

The increase for non-union employees would be from $116 a month, which the employees are paying now, to $193 a month—a $77 increase. This compares to a increase of only $22 for unionized employees, which would set their health insurance cost at only $138 a month.

“This is an ‘anti-union’ board, but they are literally telling non-union employees to unionize,” Gary said.

The committee also approved an overall 3.5 percent increase in salaries for elected officials, which would most greatly affect the county sheriff and state’s attorney positions, which will receive a 5 percent and a 5.1 percent increase, respectively.

Gary rebuked the committee’s failure to create a long-term pay schedule for elected positions, explaining that the present procedure forces the decision of pay increase immediately before the election processes of the same officials.

“They had a chance to implement some rational thinking in dealing with the issue of salary increase, but instead they chose to continue their process of pulling random salaries out of their hat and changing opinions from year to year,” he said.

Gary also inquired as to why the salary increases had been distributed as they were. Specifically, he cited the case in which, over the last few years, the salary for the office of the sheriff had increased dramatically in the last three years while other offices have not seen the same increase.

He said the offices of the county clerk, the circuit clerk and the treasurer, which had held the same salary as the sheriff’s office three years ago, has not reflected the same pay increase as the sheriff’s office.

Gary said it could be because the circuit clerk, county clerk, and treasurer positions have recently been taken over by women.

“How can that be coincidence?” he said. “It has to be something more,” pointing to the possibility that sex was a determinant in the salaries of the officials.

“I’m not questioning whether the sheriff is worth more, I’m questioning why he’s worth more. There is a discrepancy here and it is something that hasn’t been fully explained,” he said.

Some other board members were not so critical of the meeting.

“It went extremely well,” said County Finance Director Gary Hanson. “There were lively conversations and great outcomes.”

Daugherty also said he was “very happy with the results.”

The results of the finance committee will be reviewed by the DeKalb County Board in October and the budget is scheduled to be adopted in November.