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By Bob Balgemann


BELVIDERE – Setting salaries for some elected officials only may happen every four years. This time around deciding those amounts caused several split votes during the May 18 Boone County Board meeting.

The first was the amount paid to the county board chairman, which was proposed to increase from $10,500 to $12,000. The adjustment passed, 8-3, but not without some discussion.

Board member Kenny Freeman said he thought the amount was excessive. He said he voted last time to leave it at $10,500 and also would vote against the proposed increase.

The higher amount will be effective Dec. 1, at which time a new chairman will be elected from among the 12 sitting board members. The current chairman, Bob Walberg, has chosen not to seek re-election to his District 1 seat.

Board members Sherry Branson, Brad Stark, and Freeman voted against the higher salary.

Also approved were new salaries for the county coroner and circuit court clerk for 2016-2019.

The coroner’s new salary will be $58,681 effective Dec. 1. It will go to $59,243 on Dec. 1, 2017; to $60,429 on Dec. 1, 2018; and to $61,636 on Dec. 8, 2019.

Board member Cathy Ward said that amounted to a five percent increase later this year and two percent in each of the three succeeding years.

“The majority of the people we represent aren’t getting five percent salary increases,” she said. “A lot of senior citizens aren’t getting any raises this year. We’re seeing properties go down 40 percent. Six unions (representing county employees) will be looking for raises later this year.”

She added that there won’t be any raises in Winnebago County in 2016-2017.

Board member Denny Ellingson asked for an explanation of how the finance, taxation, and salaries committee arrived at those salaries.

Committee Chairman Karl Johnson replied it did not arbitrarily come up with those numbers. The salary for the coroner had been frozen for the past four years, he explained. If the unions want a four-year freeze in pay (for its members), “we would gladly give them a five percent increase in the fifth year. There was nothing easy about any of this.”

The committee voted 4-0 to recommend the increases for the coroner and 3-1 for the clerk’s adjustment.

Ward reminded that on top of those salary increases those employees each will get another $6,500 raise from the state.

She also pointed out increases for the clerk would be five percent in the first and third years and two percent in the second and fourth years.

Johnson replied that the clerk’s position “holds a unique posture in the county. It does not have parody among other officials in surrounding counties or in this county. We’re trying to correct that over time.”

Freeman wondered whether those officials get any paid vacation.

Both are elected offices, Johnson replied, so they can take as much paid vacation as they want.

“They have to get their work done,” board Chairman Bob Walberg inserted. “This is a hypothetical question and doesn’t have a lot of value.”

Johnson added, “It’s up to voters to put people in there who they trust.”

Raises for the coroner were approved, 7-4, with Freeman, Stark, Branson and Ward dissenting increases for the circuit clerk were approved, 8-3, with Branson, Freeman and Ward voting no.

After the salary items were decided, the board voted 11-0 to spend $83,500 for a dump and spreader box, plow hitch, and patrol wing for the highway department’s new tandem truck. Bonnell Industries Inc. in Dixon was the low bidder among three submitting quotes.

“That’s more than a circuit clerk” is paid, Chairman Walberg quipped. “And they don’t get any vacation.”

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