Employee Compensation Ranks Top of County Budget Priorities | The star
AUBURN – Members of DeKalb County Council heard an overview of their discussions on the 2022 budget during Monday’s meeting at the courthouse.
“We will really need to focus on the employee salary increases for 2022,” said Chairman of the Board Rick Ring.
The board has never been able to meet the salary guidelines recommended by a study two years ago, Ring added.
“I want to be true to what we have promised,” said City Councilor Donna King.
“We have very high quality people, and they save us money with their actions,” King added.
Ring suggested the council ask county department heads not to include more than a 2.5% increase in their budget requests for 2022. If they can keep the increases lower, the council will have more. to spend on employee pay increases, he said.
“I think we’re going to have to go on top of that” with a few pay increases, Ring said of the 2.5% guideline.
Ring said he frequently hears employee concerns about the size of their share in health insurance premiums. “I wish I could take on more” for 2022, he said.
“Benefits are a big part of retaining our employees,” Ring added.
“There are going to be a lot of tough decisions to be made” when the board works on the 2022 budget later this summer, Ring warned.
Financial consultant Jeff Peters said a budget increase from 1.5% to 2% is “very doable” for 2022, adding that the county’s budget plan is based on a 3% increase.
Peters told council members how they could use DeKalb County’s $ 8.3 million expected as part of the US federal bailout passed earlier this year.
Federal money can be used to replace tax revenue lost due to reduced economic activity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Peters estimated that $ 5 million from DeKalb County could be used in this way.
“The revenue clawback part is really a game-changer for you,” Peters told the board.
The county’s remaining $ 3.3 million could be used for other projects that meet US bailout guidelines, Peters said. However, extending public services to the future site of a new prison in the western part of Auburn may not be eligible, he said.
“It’s not about economic development at all,” Peters said of the US bailout.
Proposed change in retirement age
Ron Dicke, a member of the Sheriff’s Board of Directors, said the MPs pension fund gained 30% – about $ 1.2 million – from investments in 2020, with a 7% gain up to present this year, reaching a total of $ 7.3 million.
Dicke proposed to improve the benefits of sheriff’s deputies by raising the age of retirement eligibility from 55 to 52.
“We’ve invested a lot of time and resources in these people, and then when we get them, we want to keep them,” Dicke said.
“We’re trying to think of other ways to make things better for officers without incurring a huge financial impact,” Dicke said. He estimated that the change in retirement age could cost $ 4,000 per year.
“I think this is a great opportunity,” said Sheriff David Cserep II. “I know we can’t compete with the salaries” of the big departments, he said, “but the advantages, I think, that we can absolutely compete with.”
Council attorney Donald Stuckey said any changes to the retirement age would have to be approved by county commissioners. The board would then have to approve the required funds.
The site of the road network awaiting approval
Commissioners chairman Bill Hartman said the commissioners are still awaiting an assessment of a new site at the proposed Highways Department in Waterloo, to make sure the county can erect new buildings it wants to add to the site.
If the Waterloo site is approved, the county is prepared to sell the existing road service site in south Auburn to the town of Auburn for its appraised value of $ 305,000. The city intends to use the 5-acre property to expand the nearby Eckhart Park.
The city has also agreed to buy an abandoned county bridge for $ 50,000, if it can guarantee that it is not subject to any restrictions under federal rules, Hartman said. The iron bridge once spanned the CSX rail line on CR 75 east of St. Joe. Auburn Mayor Mike Ley wants to install it as a pedestrian bridge over Cedar Creek near 11th Street.
Video participation in meetings offered
At its July meeting, the board will consider a resolution allowing its members to attend electronically.
On Monday, city councilor Bob Krafft participated remotely through a new audio-video connection.
“I can hear everyone in the room perfectly,” Krafft said, with his image on a big screen at the front of the room.
Under the proposed change, members are expected to attend at least half of the meetings in person during the year. A member could not attend more than two consecutive meetings electronically.
Ring said he would like to see the live stream of council meetings, with video recordings posted to YouTube afterwards. Ring said the county already has most of the facilities needed to do so
The best example of a neighboring county that broadcasts its meetings live is in Whitley County, Ring said.