Lauzen, committee members clash over raises

GENEVA – Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen this week is asking various committees to support salary increases for multiple county directors – a move that riled some members Tuesday.

Public Health Committee members Myrna Molina, D-Aurora, and Melisa Taylor, R-Sugar Grove, voted against moving two salary increase requests forward because they wanted more information about the broader pay raise plan.

“I want to see the bigger picture of where the money is coming from,” Molina said. “These are a lot of budget adjustments at the beginning of the year.”

Lauzen said he is requesting the salary adjustments to help make the directors’ wages more comparable to salaries offered by seven nearby counties.

“Are there dollars in the budget for this raise?” he said. “The answer is yes.”

A 5 percent raise is being proposed for Public Health Director Barb Jeffers, who makes about $109,000. Lauzen said only one of her local counterparts – the director in Kendall County – makes less than her.

The salary bump helps “protect the tremendous talent that we have,” Lauzen said.

Committee chairman Monica Silva, D-Aurora, said she has worked with several public health directors and Jeffers is among the best.

“I can’t underscore how Barb Jeffers stands out from the rest,” Silva said. “I wish we could give her more.”

She and committee members Brian Pollock, D-Aurora, and Susan Starrett, R-Batavia, moved Jeffers’ proposed increase – along with a 5 percent proposed increase for Emergency Management Director Donald Bryant – to the Finance/Budget Committee.

With more proposed salary increases on the agenda for meetings today and Thursday, Molina and Taylor said they wanted to consider the proposals as part of a whole.

“I need to know the full picture before I decide on the individual pieces,” Molina said.

Taylor said she takes the county-to-county salary comparisons with a grain of salt because they aren’t always apple-to-apple comparisons.

Lauzen said the aggregate will be considered at the Finance/Budget Committee meeting once the individual proposals are considered by the appropriate committees.

He chided Molina and Taylor for their lack of support. He said votes can be symbolic, and he wouldn’t want the committee to send the wrong message to Jeffers, under whose leadership the health department received national accreditation.

He said it’s not consistent to applaud a director’s achievements but vote against a raise that doesn’t even bring her up to the average compensation.

“We can’t send bad signals in motions and votes,” Lauzen said.

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