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Split board backs raises

Members OK contract without knowing costs

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012 1:15 a.m. CDT

DIXON – A divided Lee County Board on Tuesday approved a union contract that includes raises for employees, although officials admitted they hadn’t calculated the cost of the 3-year agreement.

In approving the new contract, board members gave up on a much-discussed plan for a countywide wage freeze.

By a 16-7 vote, the board approved the contract with the Teamsters, which represents 10 employees in the county clerk’s and treasurer’s offices. The contract, which already had been approved by the union, includes $1,000 raises in the first and third years of the contract and $750 in the second year.

The board voted on the contract after meeting behind closed doors for 45 minutes Tuesday.

Board members didn’t get a copy of the contract until the closed session, which came near the end of the board’s monthly meeting.

After opening the doors, some members wanted to delay a vote until they got information on the fiscal impact. But the board voted 13-10 against postponement.

Before the vote on the contract, only one member, Bob Gibler, R-Dixon, spoke. He said the contract would cost a lot of money, but it was worth it because employees are the backbone of any organization.

After the meeting, Vern Gottel, R-rural Sterling, said he opposed the agreement because he wouldn’t support something without knowing the total cost. He said the primary goal of negotiations should be to know the costs.

Member Marilyn Shippert, R-Dixon, however, said she voted for the contract because she felt she couldn’t go against the negotiating team.

Dave Chandler, R-Dixon, who was a member of the team, said the board had made some minor changes in wording, so a copy of the contract remained unavailable to the public.

In calculating the costs of the agreement, the county would have to take into account the raises and changes to benefits.

In August 2011, a split board voted for $1,000-a-year raises for nonunion employees. Supporters said it was only fair because union workers were getting similar increases. At that meeting, they said the county would align all of its union contracts so that they have the same expiration date. That way, they said, they would be fair to enact a wage freeze of all employees at the same time.

At a committee meeting in July 2011, Rick Ketchum, D-Amboy, then the board’s Finance Committee chairman and now board chairman, backed the wage freeze idea.

“We’ll draw a line in the sand next year. We’ll argue with everyone,” he said, referring to union negotiations.

Ketchum, who supported the union contract Tuesday, said the wage freeze wouldn’t happen.

He said he also expected increases in the contracts with unions that represent sheriff and highway employees. Those agreements should be headed to the board soon.

The contracts are all slated to be retroactive to Dec. 1.

In 2014, the county could endure its own version of the fiscal cliff. The county will lose $1 million a year in revenue from its contract with Phoenix-based Republic Services, which owns the Lee County Landfill.

But instead of cutting spending to prepare for the loss of income, the county has been increasing its costs.

Three months ago, the board approved two new positions in the state’s attorney’s office – a clerical employee and a prosecutor. And the sheriff is asking for two more deputies, though County Board members say they will delay a decision on that issue until after the county reaches an agreement with the sheriff’s union.

How they voted

Here's how Lee County Board members voted Tuesday on a contract with the Teamsters union that includes raises for employees in the county clerk's and treasurer's offices:

Yes

Allyn Buhrow, R-Ashton

David Chandler, R-Dixon

Kasey Considine, R-rural Amboy

Tim Deem, R-Dixon

Bob Gibler, R-Dixon

Rick Ketchum, D-Amboy

Arlan McClain, R-Dixon

Isaac Mercer, R-Dixon

Wes Morrissey, D-Amboy

Bill Palen, R-Dixon

Marilyn Shippert, R-Dixon

Ann Taylor, R-Amboy

Judy Truckenbrod, R-West Brooklyn

Jim Wentling, R-Dixon

Marvin Williams, R-Dixon

Greg Witzleb, R-Dixon

No

Dick Binder, R-Compton

Bernie Buckley, R-Dixon

Vern Gottel, R-rural Sterling

Tom Kitson, R-Dixon

Steve Kitzman, R-Dixon

Gerald Leffelman, R-Sublette

John Nicholson, R-Franklin Grove

Absent

David Gusse, R-Dixon

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