For the Good of Illinois

The Times: Seemingly small raises, big impact

April 16, 2016 05:00 PM
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Original Article, click here.
 

Seemingly small raises, big impact

David Giuliani, davidg@mywebtimes.com, 815-431-4041 | 0 comments

The other day, an Ottawa resident told me he researches government salaries and notices they increase every year, mentioning the La Salle County government in particular.

He likes the Open the Books website, which is put together by a nonprofit group, For the Good of Illinois. This site tracks just about every government salary in Illinois; it's a key part of the apparatus that helps the public hold government officials accountable.

If a government agency gives its employees 3 percent raises every year, that may not seem like a lot. But it actually mounts up quickly.

For instance, if a government entity has an annual payroll of $1 million and increases employees' pay 3 percent a year, that would grow to $1,343,000 in 10 years, a 34 percent increase.

That hits taxpayers hard. Over the last 10 years, the consumer price index went up just 17 percent. So with 3 percent yearly increases, employees would see more than double the inflation rate in raises over the last decade.

Just for fun, I randomly selected 10 employees in county government from departments, such as the county clerk, sheriff, detention home, assessor, health, recorder, highway and the County Board.

Using Open the Books, I compared the employees' salaries in 2010 to 2015. Their total pay increased from $394,191 to $465,753. That's an 18.2 percent hike, more than double the 8.7 percent inflation rate in those six years. Most of the 10 saw their pay increase dramatically. One of them saw a drop; another got only a minor increase. Of course, some of the 10 probably were promoted. Whatever the case, most saw steady increases in pay every year.

Many in the private sector haven't seen these types of raises since the 2008 recession and probably before.

Government is a service industry, so the cost of labor consumes most taxpayer dollars. Seemingly small increases in pay can have a big impact over time, though this probably won't be my opening argument the next time I beg for a raise.

No form required

I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to a local village, and the clerk told me I would need to fill out a "standard form," which he promised to email.

I told him I would fill it out if it meant getting the information quicker. However, the Freedom of Information Act states government entities may not require people submit requests on a "standard form." It can only be optional.

The purpose of that provision was to make it easier for the public to access government information. As I've pointed out before, you can turn in your records request on a cocktail napkin, though I wouldn't recommend it.

Another provision in the records law: You don't need to give a purpose for a records request. And no government official should ask why you want public information.

If you get an unusual written response to a records request, email or call me. I'd like to know when the government is denying your requests.

Original Article, click here.

 

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