The St. Charles County Council passed the 2012 budget on Monday with an amendment providing a pay boost for some long-time sheriff deputies.
Debate over the budget document, which was approved without opposition, was generally less contentious than St. Louis County’s. But , . Several speakers at that meeting noted that the county’s inability to pay more senior deputies more money drove them to municipalities.
In an attempt to address the situation, Councilman Joe Brazil (R-District 2) of Defiance, submitted an amendment to the public. Among other things, the amendment would provide a one-time salary increase from July to December 2012. It would affect those who have 120 months of service with the sheriff’s department.
To pay for the increase, Brazil said that the county is going to start charging schools for resource officers, something he noted that other municipalities are doing. Combined with various other reductions, Brazil said the pay increase will be funded.
“We’re talking about 10-year deputies,” Brazil said. “Anybody with 10 years or more will get a $2,500 pay increase... This is something that needs to be done.”
Brazil added that there are “other departments that came to us and said ‘well, there are discrepancies with our pay, too.’” He then said that nobody on the council denies that, but added that they needed to show data comparing St. Charles County employees to other municipalities.
“Nobody’s brought anything to me,” Brazil said. “And I’m not saying there are not discrepancies out there with pay. All I’m saying is the deputies have brought us facts. And here they are. And we know they’re underpaid. They’ve been underpaid for a lot of years.”
“I do realize there are other employees we need to address,” he added. “But this will at least address the deputies.”
While he voted for the amendment, Councilman Joe Cronin (R-St. Paul) called the measure “a Band-Aid.”
“I will vote for it because I think it’s the step in the right direction,” Cronin said. “I think there’s a pay issue. And I think it needs to be addressed better than this. When you’re paying (deputies) 10 to 20 percent at the sheriff department less than comparable departments of similar size of the county, that’s not fair to those guys.”
Cronin said other county employees deserve to have their pay looked at as well.
“Even though the transportation department may not have brought these numbers up to us, or corrections may not have brought these numbers up, we have a county auditor who gets paid to answer those questions,” Cronin said. “I think this council should do that. And at that point in time, we quantify how far behind our employees are, then I think we need to address ways of raising money to pay those employees an equitable manner.”
Councilman Jerry Daugherty (D-District 6) of Portage Des Sioux, agreed with Cronin that the amendment didn’t go far enough. He added a property tax increase would be the only way to assist all of the county’s employees.
“The only reason I will vote for this is because it’s a one-time deal and it’s coming out of the sheriff’s budget basically anyway,” Daugherty said.
And while she agreed that there were “inequities out there in every one of our departments,” Councilwoman Nancy Matheny (R-District 3) of St. Charles, said the debate didn’t bring benefits into the equation.
“Logic tells me that yes, there is an underpayment in the officers and the sheriff’s department,” Matheny said. “We see the top line. We see the top salary. We don’t know issues are. We don’t know the time off. We don’t know the benefits. We don’t know the retirement plan. We don’t know the difference in take-home car policies. We don’t know the differences in educational background. There’s a lot we don’t know. And for us to come in and just say ‘We think that this is the right thing to do’ when it isn’t going to go into effect until July anyway is premature.”
“Yes I support an increase—not just for the sheriff’s department, but for all long-term employees where there is a compression issue,” she said. “And I hope with the increase in sales tax that we’ve had over this holiday season that we’d be able to address it between now and July—not just for the sheriff’s department, but for all (long-term employees).”
Brazil, Cronin, Daugherty and Councilman Joe White (R-District 7) of St. Charles, voted for the amendment. Matheny and Councilman Terry Hollander (R-District 5) of St. Charles, voted against it.
The council also approved two bills discussed at the last meeting, one reconfiguring how and another measure hiring lobbyists to advocate for the county.
Among other things, the fireworks bill would expand the time frame when the explosives could be shot off. It would also allow for the public display of consumer fireworks through the permitting process. And it would allow event-by-event permitting of professional fireworks.
That bill passed 4-1, with Matheny voting no. Hollander was absent from the vote.
The lobbyist bill was criticized once again on Monday by A.C. Dienoff, an O’Fallon resident. He told the council that it was a wasteful use of expenditures to hire lobbyists when councilmembers, department heads and the county executive could go to Jefferson City.
That bill was approved without opposition.