No raises for auditor employees, Porter County Council says
By AMy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent April 22, 2014 9:24PM
Updated: May 24, 2014 6:24AM
VALPARAISO — Auditor Bob Wichlinski again approached the Porter County Council to ask for raises at Tuesday’s meeting and received the same answer he did in late February.
The council voted 5-2 against the salary increases for the remaining 14 members of his staff — he cut five people in early February in what he termed an office restructuring — in part because he pays two consultants up to $90,000 each a year for work done in his office.
Wichlinski said the consultants are paid out of the auditor’s nonreverting fund, which has $300,000 in it and also is used for improvements in other offices. One of the consultants has generated $2.4 million from homestead violations.
He said trimming staff has saved $178,000 to date, and the salary increases would total $34,000.
“He’s sitting on $300,000 and he has consultants making $180,000 a year. Exactly what has he saved?” said Councilman Bob Poparad, D-At-large. “Maybe cut the consultants and bring the employees back. A lot of knowledge walked out that door.”
The comment brought “thank yous” from the employees at the meeting.
Wichlinski said tax bills went out a week early, despite the smaller staff, and the second consultant — who Poparad pointed out Wichlinski brought in after he cut his staff — is working on cross-training the remaining employees.
Council President Dan Whitten, D-At-large, also questioned whether employees in the office couldn’t be trained to do the work being done by the consultants.
When Wichlinski let the employees go, he said he had been considering the restructuring since he took office in January 2011 and was motivated to carry the changes through after the council said department heads had to cut spending or it would do it for them.
“The county auditor has done that. We’re not going to save money on pencils and paper; it’s people,” said Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st District.
Biggs and Councilman Jim Polarek, R-4th District, voted in favor of the salary increases.
In other business, Councilwoman Karen Conover, R-3rd District, said the council’s budget and finance specialist, Vicki Urbanik, has poured through the budget and found the county could save more than $1.6 million by rolling spending levels back to last year for most departments.
“We’re not taking anything away from them,” Conover said, adding it’s based on what department heads spent last year.
The council will go over the information with department heads before further discussion.
Additionally, the council received three requests for information from area community foundations about investing a portion of the $159 million in proceeds from the sale of the hospital. They were the Porter County Community Foundation, Unity Foundation of LaPorte County and Bison Financial Group.
County attorney Scott McClure will broaden advertising the request beyond local media to generate more interest, with the goal of having more interested community foundations in time for the council’s meeting next month.