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Rock County Board votes to freeze wages of 3 county officials

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
May 14, 2010
— The Rock County sheriff, clerk of courts and coroner will get no raise next year or in 2012, the county board decided Thursday night.

The vote was 23-2 to freeze the elected officials’ salaries.


“We simply do not have the money in the coffers to pay them,” said Supervisor Betty Jo Bussie of Beloit.


The same vote gave a 1 percent raise to all three officials in 2013 and again in 2014.


State law requires county boards to set the salaries for these officials by June 1, the first date that residents can circulate nomination papers to run for those positions.


“I think this is grossly unfair to our elected officials,” said Supervisor Larry Wiedenfeld of Janesville.


“These individuals have performed admirably for us and deserve more than the back of the hand, so to speak,” Wiedenfeld said.


Wiedenfeld and Jason Heidenreich of Janesville were the only votes against the salary freezes.


Legal counsel Jeff Kuglitsch reminded board members that they must set salaries for whoever is elected to those positions in November, not necessarily for the people who occupy those offices today.


Sheriff Bob Spoden is making $93,826 this year. Coroner Jenifer Keach makes $57,503. Clerk of Courts Eldred Mielke makes $67,886.


Ivan Collins of Janesville agreed that the three have done good jobs but he supported the freeze because of the economic hardships of his constituents.


“I think all the elected officials understand the hard times Rock County is in,” Collins said.


“I don’t see how in heaven we can give these officials a raise when we’re going to go to other union employees and tell them, you know, we cannot afford to give you a raise,” said Supervisor Eva Arnold, rural Beloit.


Officials from three unions representing a majority of county workers addressed the board earlier in the meeting, pointing fingers at county officials for lack of progress on contract talks.


The union officials and members sported stickers that said “No Rock Bottom.”


“We understand a struggling economy plays a role in this year’s negotiations, but we cannot accept …reductions in wages and benefits, said public health nurse Joel Mallari.


Marv Vike, president of AFSCME Local 1077, representing workers in parks, maintenance, public works and the airport, said his union supports raises for the elected officials.


“But we also would like a piece of the pie for us guys, the people who are out there, doing their jobs—good weather, bad weather,” Vike said.


The board’s staff committee had recommended raises of 2.75 percent in 2011, 2.75 percent in 2012, 2 percent in 2013 and 2 percent in 2014 for the clerk of courts and coroner.


The board’s staff committee had recommended a $5,000 raise for the sheriff next year, to get his salary above that of the chief deputy, and then 2.75 percent, 2 percent and 2 percent in the next three years.


The 2.75 percent figures are the same increases that the county clerk, treasurer and register of deeds will receive in the next two years, said staff committee member Marilynn Jensen of Janesville. Those increases were set just ahead of their elections in 2008,


County board Chairman Russ Podzilni said Treasurer Vicki Brown is returning her 2.75 percent to the county this year, and Clerk Lori Stottler is donating her raise to charity.



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