Porter County judges complain about employee pay, insurance
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent October 2, 2013 9:04PM
Updated: October 3, 2013 9:35PM
VALPARAISO — Porter County judges this week vented their frustration over the lack of raises for their employees.
Judges also used Wednesday’s budget hearing by the Porter County Council to complain about a health insurance plan passed earlier in the week by the Board of Commissioners that increases deductibles and co-pays.
Council members have said they will review requests for salary increases at the end of the budget session, once they know how the numbers will shake out.
Superior Court Judge David Chidester noted his secretary makes $28,500, “not a living wage,” and said he was going to file a mandate for pay raises.
“It’s coming, and it’s coming from Judge Chidester,” he said.
That didn’t go over with Councilman Dan Whitten, D-At-large, who said after the meeting that he’s taken a stance for getting raises for employees the last few years, and for someone to say they were going to get a mandate is “like a slap in the face.”
“To come in and threaten us really didn’t sit well with me,” he said, adding the council is trying to keep some 90 county budgets running and understands the value of county employees.
Superior Court Judge William Alexa lamented the health insurance changes. While monthly premiums remain the same, the rest of the rates go up, as commissioners try to trim 8 percent to 12 percent from insurance costs.
Alexa said he understands the county was trying to save money, but they were doing it on the backs of the employees with the insurance changes.
“What’s it going to do? It probably means people won’t go in for routine physical maintenance,” he said.
The commissioners, not the council, made the insurance changes, Whitten said. “I don’t agree with doing savings on the backs of employees and I wouldn’t have voted for it.”
In other budget news, the county council took one for the team, agreeing to cut their salaries by $1,000 in the coming year to help trim the budget. Under their old salary structure, the president made $15,895, and the six remaining council members made $14,895 each.
“We’re cutting the county. There are a lot of places we’ve got to cut. Let’s lead by example,” said Councilman Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd District, who made the motion for the pay cut.
The council passed the measure, and the council budget, 7-0. With the salary cut, the council’s budget for the coming year is $188,567, still $8,567 more than it was last year.
The council was to meet again for another budget hearing Thursday. Budget approval is slated for Oct. 22.