Winnebago County Board members continue to deal with budget shortfalls. But over at the courthouse, almost a hundred employees working under Chief Judge Joe McGraw will see an annual raise for the next four years. It’s part of their new contract.
“He’s actually paying 3% increases plus base pay for the next four years,” said Finance Committee ChairmanTed Biondo. “That’s a 15 to 18% increase.”
Biondo says the 3% increase adds up to about $470,000. This, in a county which had to lay off around 80 sheriff’s department employees, just to balance the budget. The county’s also involved in litigation with the court over future budget cuts.
In a statement, Trial Court Administrator Tom Jakeway says before department cuts were made for the 2018 budget, the County was made aware of the pay increases.
“With respect to funding, the court submitted its FY2018 budget requests to the County on June 22, 2017. The Court’s FY2018 budget request included the tentative salary increases that were contemplated at that time.”
But since court employees are state employees, county board approval is not needed for the new contract. Biondo says many board members did not realize that. He adds now the board will have to decide whether to use reserves to pay for the increases.
According to Biondo, “If we keep using up reserves like this, the only thing we will have left is borrowing and when you borrow you borrow from next years taxes and you have to pay interest when you do it. So, its even worse.”
He adds, salaries need to be thought out carefully in order to avoid a financial meltdown. “Here, it doesn’t seem to matter how much your deficits are. Everybody expects their entitled to more money and we cannot continue to do that.”
To fund the salary increases, the finance committee will recommend a plan from the administration for board approval.