Lake Council gives cops and guards higher pay

2014-01-14T17:50:00Z 2014-01-15T11:00:18Z Lake Council gives cops and guards higher payBy Bill Dolan, (219) 662-5328
January 14, 2014 5:50 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | Lake County police and corrections officers won't have to wait another month for their pay raise.

Lake County Council members voted 5-2 on Tuesday to make 2 percent salary increases for 196 county jail employees and 3 percent increases for 162 police officers available within three weeks and retroactive to Dec. 30, 2013.

The majority Democratic party members on the fiscal body made their decision in the face of possible state rejection.

Republican councilmen Dan Dernulc, R-Highland, and Eldon Strong, R-Crown Point, said they supported the raises, too, but still wanted to wait until February until confusion about the county government's budget is cleared up.

Lake County Sheriff John Buncich said he was pleased with the results.

"On behalf of the men and women of our department, I want to thank you for your action today," he said.

Daniel Murchek, assistant county police chief and president of Lake County Police Association Local 72, thanked the council for acting boldly. He said other communities have approved much larger pay raises for their officers.

Dante Rondelli, the council's financial director, warned the County Council that the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance could reject the additional $582,000 needed to support the higher wages because of a new twist in state accounting procedures making the 2014 county government appear to be millions of dollars in deficit.

Rondelli said the state began last year requiring Lake County to set aside three years of estimated property tax cap savings over a two-year period to ensure county property owners get all the taxes back they deserve from the the circuit-breaker system, which limits the taxes government used to be able to charge to any one real estate parcel.

Rondelli said there is no need to keep that much circuit-breaker money in reserve, but if state officials disagree with him, they will disapprove of the new salary appropriations.

If so, he said the county can get around this problem by transferring money within their budget.

Rondelli will get a 15 percent pay raise, too, under a deal in which he will no longer be paid overtime. Councilwoman Christine Cid, D-East Chicago, cast the lone vote against his increase. His new salary will now stand at $109,897.

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