County OKs pay hikes for 3 groups of employees

The Fayette County Board approved contracts that provide most county employees with a 2½-percent pay raise in each of the next three years.
The board approved an agreement with the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council that gives employees in the sheriff’s office pay increases.
It also OK’d two other agreements with the Southern and Central Illinois Laborers District Council and Laborers Local 1197 that cover employees in the county clerk, supervisor of assessments and treasurer offices, and probation department, office and clerical employees.
One exception on the pay raises is that the courthouse custodian’s increase in the first year will be 2 percent.
Wade Wilhour, chairman of the board’s insurance and personnel, explained that the contracts also call for the employees to increase their insurance deductible contributions from $750 to $1,500 annually.
The employees will receive 13 paid days off, and they were granted their request to replace Presidents’ Day with Christmas Eve on the holiday schedule.
Wilhour also explained that the schedule for step increases was changed.
Before, step raises were given after one, three, five, seven, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 and 35 years. Now, he said, the step increases will be given every five years.
“All in all, it’s not too bad,” Wilhour said about the contracts.
However, he said, “In reality, it’s not near enough for the county to sustain at this level.
“Change (in spending) won’t happen soon enough,” Wilhour said. “I would anticipate change and I expect change.
“These contracts don’t leave us with very many options (on reducing spending),” he said.
“I’ll go on the record as saying that I’ve heard a lot of chatter about the (property) taxes,” Wilhour said. “I’m with the people on this.
“If there’s any tax increase figured in this (next) budget at all, I won’t vote for it,” he said.
During committee reports, finance chairman Darrell Schaal urged department heads to fine tune their budgets.
“We’re still looking for a zero(-percent) increase in the budget,” he said to department heads. “Bring us the best numbers you can, please.”
The new contracts add about 10 county employees who were not previously members of a union, he said.
Wilhour said that they are still negotiating with the union representing employees of the highway department, and that he feels the two parties are close to an agreement.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting:
• The board, at the recommendation of its liquor committee, approved the renewal of the liquor license for The Lake House.
• The board approved new rates for county employees’ dental, vision and life insurance.
Wilhour said that the total premium increases from $62,988 to $63,444.
The premiums for dental and life insurance stay the same, and vision coverage is increasing from $15,242 to $15,708.
• The board observed a moment of silence for former board member Melvin Johnson.
• Emergency Management Agency Coordinator Kendra Craig reported a Sunday break-in at the county storage building on Ill. Route 185 northwest of town.
Craig said that the burglars took all of EMA’s generators, dive team equipment and maps – “anything that could be carried out.”
• Sheriff Chris Smith reported that a lightning strike at the courthouse caused about $40,000 in damage.

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