CROWN POINT — The Lake County Council voted 6-1 to settle a year-old dispute with 14 Superior Court judges that will give about $348,000 in salary increases to their court staff.
The agreement indicates all court employees will receive a 3 percent raise this year.
Dante Rondelli, the council's financial director, said it won't cost taxpayers though, since the cost of the pay raises after this year will be offset by a permanent savings the county will receive when the state takes over the cost of maintaining local court documents through the state's Odyssey system.
The judges sued the county in February 2017 seeking raises for each of more than 350 employees listed on their payroll. The judges claimed they had lost valuable employees and have trouble replacing them because of county government's low pay scale.
Rondelli said the county also will realize savings in the future, because the state will pick up the cost of health benefits for any new judges and their judicial magistrates hired after this year.
The council was forced to freeze public salaries and reduce county government's payroll between 2007 to 2013 when property tax revenues shrank, then granted 3 percent across-the-board raises in 2014, 2017 and this year in the wake of the economic recovery and the adoption of a 1.5 percent personal income tax on county residents and those who work in the county.
County Councilwoman Christine Cid, D-East Chicago, was the lone dissenting vote against the deal.
Council members also approved an ordinance requiring county elected officials and department heads to postpone hiring new employees until they have paid all benefits due the previous employee who left the vacant position.
It will replace the council's old job-freeze policy, which some council members believed saved money by forcing county officials to delay hiring new employees until the county council approved filing job vacancies. However, the new policy is expected to generate less paperwork.