Committee seeks a raise for administrator

Ken Harris

 A Tazewell County committee recommended a 5 percent wage increase for the County Administrator David Jones Nov. 10 as well as a two-year contract extension that would keep Jones in the position until December 2013.

According to Executive Committee Chair David Zimmerman, the committee recommended a two-year extension to Jones’ contract that is set to expire Dec. 1, 2011. The committee also approved a 5 percent wage increase that would raise Jones’s base salary from $102,685 per year to $107,619 starting Dec. 1, 2010.

Zimmerman said Friday he is aware that it is hard to sell to the public the idea of awarding a public official with a wage increase. However, he said the value to the county of awarding Jones a wage increase outweighed the cost.

“Even with this pay increase he will still be (paid) $15,000 to $25,000 less than his peers,” Zimmerman said. “Even though we’re giving him a nice raise he still doesn’t compare to his peers. We can document hundreds of thousands of dollars this year he’s saved us. What it would cost to replace him is significantly more than it costs to pay him.”

Zimmerman pointed out McLean County’s administrator is looking to retire soon and said the starting pay for that job is more than $140,000 annually. He said Jones could keep his family in his current house and just work one county over while making tens of thousands of dollars more per year.

According to Zimmerman, although Jones has never threatened to leave, it would be smart for the county to provide Jones with plenty of incentive to stay.

Jones affirmed he has no interest in pursuing the McLean County job.

Having Jones stay around also eliminates what Zimmerman called a two- to three-year learning curve that accompanies a new hire for the position, which would not be good during tough economic times. Zimmerman also pointed out if the previous administrator were still in Tazewell, he would likely be making more than $120,000 per year based on likely performance-based  raises.

One county employee voiced frustration earlier in the week, however, over rumors that Jones would be receiving a wage increase after spearheading negotiations with the union that represents the lowest paid employees that resulted in only a 1.5 percent wage increase for those 89 employees.The county then granted 2 percent wage increases for the supervisors of those employees despite allegedly promising the rate increase for both groups would be identical.

The employment agreement for Jones would have to be approved by the entire County Board at its Nov. 18 meeting before becoming an official offer.

Jones, who said Friday negotiating the terms of his employment is “one of the less enjoyable aspects of the job,” said he would definitely accept the offer.

“If this goes through would I then turn around and say no? No, that’s not how it works,” Jones said. “I’ve enjoyed my time here and really feel like we’re on a good path.”

The board is set to also approve the fiscal year 2011 budget at its November meeting.

The budget process has been relatively smooth thanks in large part to mid-year budget cuts made at the recommendation of Jones.

According to Jones, due to a lack of significant progress on the issue, the Executive Committee did not have much of a discussion regarding the inter-governmental agreement between the county and the Illinois Department of Revenue regarding a $1.5 million grant for the county to dredge silt out of the river to use as a soil cover for the abandoned Pekin Landfill.

He said the only real update to this point is that the current goal is to have the agreement ready for December. He said the agreement would have to go through the Executive Committee before reaching the full board for final approval.