Friday, September 06, 2013
sponsored by

Nonunion county employees ask to have raises protected

Send a link to a friend 

[September 06, 2013]  Around two dozen guests crowded together for a special meeting of the Logan County Finance Committee on Aug. 27. While the meeting was primarily for a reading of the first draft of the upcoming budget, for the purpose of finding errors, the committee still welcomed commentary from the guests if they had anything to say.

"We're changing the budget to more closely resemble the audit, with the idea that it will be a lot easier for the finance committee and other people to compare the two documents," finance chairman Chuck Ruben explained at the beginning of the meeting.

With the new format for the budget, the committee and anyone who reads it will be able to compare the budgeted amount for the upcoming fiscal year with the budget and the actual dollar amounts from last year and with the actual amounts from the year before.

Ruben also said that the committee and a few county employees have taken on more of the work in preparing the new budget, which "has been a much more massive job than we anticipated."

The committee has also begun to adjust figures for the budget in preparation for the next draft. For example, the committee discussed changing the budgeted income brought in from traffic violations. However, the last few years have not produced an easy trend to follow in terms of comparing budgeted amounts with actual dollars. As a result, the committee will have to return to this line item in the next draft.

Another change to the budget was the removal of the potential $1.15 million in revenue from wind farm building permits, as it is likely those permits will not bring in any money for the next fiscal year.

After an initial budgetary conversation, the committee considered the number of guests in attendance and asked how many might wish to speak. Seeing about five hands go up, Ruben suggested it wouldn't take long if each speaker could limit their comments to a few minutes.

As it ended up, the sidetrack allowing the employees to speak first took more than an hour.

Lisa Bobb, a county employee, thanked the committee for the opportunity to speak. She asked Ruben to clarify a statement he had made at the previous night's meeting of the Executive and Economic Development Committee. Ruben's comment that night was that the county budget could be at a deficit of $709,000.

"That's all changed after today's meetings," said Ruben. "It was an error."

Bobb also quoted Ruben as saying, "What we need and what we can afford are two different things." Ruben acknowledged the quote, saying that he always takes such an approach to finances.

Bobb asked the committee to explain what the finance committee adjustment is, which was found in the budget under every department. Ruben said that in the past, the finance committee would tell the departments to make equal cuts to help compensate for a deficit in the general fund. Ruben also said that the committee is going to change the way the adjustment is made.

"We took a percentage away from everybody's budget to come up with that amount," Ruben said.

He said that in the future, the committee will ask the departments to change the line items in their own budgets in order to reflect the actual amounts, instead of placing a negative figure at the bottom of their section.

Bobb asked about raises for nonunion employees and if there is a way to better ensure that employees actually receive an increase in pay. Ruben said that while the county board can put more money into a department's salary line item, there is no way for them to enforce how that money is distributed.

"Board members bring that up every year, about making raises mandatory, and we can't," said Ruben.

Ruben said that with the new method, potential raises would go in after the adjustments were properly reflected in the budget and not before, as was the case in past years.

Jan Schumacher added that even if the board could mandate where salary increases go, most of the board members would see it as too much micromanaging on their part.

[to top of second column]

Steve Siltman, the director of ambulance services in Logan County, offered a comment on the recent controversy over a potential increase in salary for EMA director Dan Fulscher. Siltman said he has worked with Fulscher for over 30 years.

"There's not enough I can say with regard to what he and his department contribute to the county," said Siltman.

Siltman said that in his opinion, Fulscher does deserve a raise should the county find it is able to afford it, and that Logan County's EMA services have been recognized as being "a star in the state of Illinois."

Vicki Lawrence, a county employee, said that giving Fulscher a raise so close to his potential retirement might set a bad precedent for future employees who look to increase their pension. Lawrence said Fulscher is a great employee, but there are other great employees who work just as hard with increasing workloads. Lawrence said that entertaining the idea of giving any employee a large raise is unfair to everyone else.

Ruben said that Fulscher treated his request as anyone else would when asking for a raise; he went to his boss for it, who in this case is the EMA committee.

Schumacher added that nothing in the budget, including Fulscher's potential raise, is set in stone yet, and she shares the concern that this could set a tough precedent.

Fulscher also spoke, saying he had told the committee, "If it (a raise) causes any problems, I'm not interested in it." Fulscher also said he does not plan on retiring anytime soon, and that if there are budget cuts to be made, his raise should be first on the list.

Ruben took the opportunity after Siltman's statements to inform everyone of the increase in revenue to the ambulance services due to a recent referendum. The expected revenue for the next fiscal year was set at $281,000, which was increased from $128,000.

A county employee at the meeting brought up a concern surrounding her insurance plan. The high-deductible option for county employees comes with a $50 health savings deposit, and the deposits have not been given out on a consistent basis. Schumacher, who chairs the insurance committee, said the board was unaware of the issue, and she would look into the problem.

As the committee returned to the budget, Ruben told the guests: "This is draft one of a reshaped budget. The first time I looked through it, I found a $650,000 error."

Other changes discussed for the draft included:

  • Moving $22,500 from the sheriff's contingency fund to the sheriff's gas and oil line item.

  • Increasing the amount for vehicle purchasing under EMA to $15,000.

  • Increasing the budgeted amount for legal notice publications by an additional $500.

  • Increasing the budgeted amount for court-ordered HIV and paternity testing to $1,500.

  • Creating a new line item under the farm account for aid to the Oasis.

  • Increasing veterinarian care expenses under animal control to $7,000.

  • While no figure was decided upon, the committee discussed the possibility of increasing expenditures for the bridge fund. County engineer Bret Aukamp said that many bridges in the county may need repairs soon, as there was a period of several years in the past when funding was limited, so a lot of bridge work came to a halt.

Committee members present were Chuck Ruben, chairman; Jan Schumacher; Rick Aylesworth; and Terry Carlton. Guests included Vicki Dugan, county treasurer; Mary Kelley, circuit clerk; Sally Gosda, of the health department; and Sally Litterly, county clerk.


< Top Stories index

Back to top