CROWN POINT | Lake County government officials continue to fortify the salaries of their favorite employees with supplements.
Some 221 people working in Lake County's court systems and 11 other departments of county government received more than $1.13 million last year in so-called supplemental pay, according to county government payroll records.
That is fewer than one in eight of the county's total full-time workforce. The money ranged from $500 to one deputy auditor up to $27,000 for a chief deputy prosecutor.
The taxes all local property owners pay annually form the base pay of almost all county employees. But select government departments receive additional public money in the form of user fees local government collects.
The bulk of supplemental funds comes from court fees collected from criminal defendants. More than half of the supplemental pay goes to court employees.
This money has loomed large in the county's budget in recent years, since state-mandated cuts in property tax revenues have forced officials to cut 300 positions from their payroll.
Those sitting on reserves of supplemental funds say they have had to use them to spare their staffs further layoffs and enhance the salaries of high-value employees who could make more money in the private sector.
County Councilwoman Christine Cid, D-East Chicago, has long been a critic of giving supplemental pay to some when the bulk of county employees haven't seen a traditional across-the-board pay raise in years.
"To me, it's an unfair process because not all government departments have the luxury of giving that extra," Cid said.
She said Lake County Council members are in no position to vouch for an individual employee's job performance, so they must accept another elected official's claim on trust. She said supplementary funds should be pooled and equal shares given to all.