VALPARAISO | While a $500-across-the-board pay raise was among the selling points presented last week for a failed version of the county's 2013 budget, it turns out a few employees stood to gain much larger bumps in their salaries.
The alternative budget proposal called for a 37.8 percent pay increase to $45,000 for Porter County Museum Director Kevin Pazour, and a 10.3 percent pay increase to $42,000 for legal assistant Vi Wagner and a 9.7 percent pay increase to $45,000 for Administrative Assistant Melissa Hartig, both of the county commissioners office, said County Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st.
The proposal also sought 30 percent pay increases for workers at the county voter registration office, including director salaries of $51,124 for Democrat Kathy Kozuszek and Republican Sundae Schoon.
A part-time receptionist at the commissioners office also was slated to go to full time, Biggs said.
The alternative budget would have increased spending next year by 9.4 percent, as compared to the 1.9 percent decrease of the $38 million budget that narrowly won approval with a 4-3 vote by the council, he said.
County Councilwoman Laura Blaney, D-at large, who supported the failed budget proposal along with council members Dan Whitten, D-at large, and Karen Conover, R-3rd, said the proposed pay increases are part of an ongoing effort to bring salaries within county government up to more appropriate levels.
Conover said Pazour still would have been the lowest paid department head in the county if granted the proposed pay increase.
Whitten said the failed budget was prepared with the goal of addressing everyone's concerns and needs.
The budget that won approval does not provide enough funding for such big ticket items facing the county as rising employee health insurance costs, round-the-clock medical service at the jail, the opening of the third pod at the jail and long-term funding for E911, he said.
Blaney said funding for these things is the reason the failed budget called for more spending.
Biggs said he hopes the council is able to work out an arrangement with the commissioners to use local income tax revenue to fund the large cost items.
The failed version of the county budget had proposed using $2.5 million in local income tax revenues to help cover costs.
After the alternative budget plan was rejected, Porter County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, who supported the failed proposal, said he would not be proposing to use any of the income tax revenue to fund the final budget, setting up the potential for a stalemate over future proposals for the funding.