Lake County worker pay raises called unfair to those with frozen wages

2013-02-07T20:30:00Z 2013-02-07T20:49:05Z Lake County worker pay raises called unfair to those with frozen wagesBill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com
February 07, 2013 8:30 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | Pay raises may be in store for about 20 Lake County government employees when the County Council votes Tuesday.

The County Council is being asked to approve pay raises totaling more than $56,000 for a select number of employees in the office of the county clerk, Superior Court, County Division Room 4, the Plan Commission and the coroner's office.

About half of that money is being requested by County Clerk Mike A. Brown for 11 middle managers of his office, which has a total of 84 employees and a payroll of $2.2 million.

Councilwoman Christine Cid, D-East Chicago, was critical.

"I'm being asked to support an income tax and a wheel tax. But how can I, when we keep giving certain employees raises we cannot afford to give to everybody. You open the gate to the courts to give supplemental pay to their people. I have an issue with that."

Councilman Eldon Strong, R-Crown Point, who joined the council last month, said he cannot understand why requests for pay changes are coming only weeks into the new year's budget cycle.

Brown said the timing is due to the retirement of an employee, permitting a reorganization that he said will generate savings of $14,000 in reduced employee benefits.

However, Cid said that explanation doesn't satisfy her because the clerk will later fill that vacant position.

Council President Ted Bilski, D-Hobart, said past practices are to blame for some of the current fiscal problems.

"Departments added people instead of giving the people they had a living wage increase," he said.

Councilwoman Elsie Franklin, D-Gary, said when elected officials and department heads can give employees raises by reorganizing their offices and staying within their overall budgets, it should be allowed.

"When we lay off people, someone else has to pick up their workload," she said.

Cid said the raises are unfair to the bulk of the county's 1,680 full-time employees who have had their wages frozen for years.

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