The Boone County health board recently approved thousands of dollars in raises for department staff. The financial manager received a 55 percent pay increase.
Individual administrators determined who received specific pay bumps.
Boone County health administrator Cynthia Frank came to the department in 2011. She says a market study of comparable salaries was long overdue.
"It was tough, but I am glad that we could reward them by saying 'You know what? We figured out that you're being underpaid and we can rectify that situation," Frank said.
She says it wasn't until there were a couple of vacancies when the disparity came to light. She says qualified candidates were turning down jobs because of the salary offers.
"We did realize we had to increase salaries of people coming into the health department, our new staff. We couldn't just say to our old staff, 'We're not going to raise yours.' We just couldn't," Frank said.
Frank says the department based the increases on a salary study by the Illinois Department of Public Health and comparing similar positions in counties of similar size.
Boone County Board Member Marion Thornberry says the raises were out of line.
"Money has been proven to be the least effective incentive for retaining employees. A number of county board members have received letters from past employees and their reasons for leaving were the way they were treated and the way that people coming in for assistance were treated. They all stated that money was not an issue," said Thornberry.
Thornberry says the county board cannot control how a department spends its annual allocation, but adds:
"By giving raises with the economy in the condition it is at this time is entirely irresponsible on her part. To give raises ranging from 13.9% to 55.7% after being advised that the budget was already $300,000.00 dollars short, is a total disregard for reality and shows a disregard for the people of the community."
WNIJ reached out to health departments in Ogle and Whiteside counties to compare salaries of similar positions.
Public Health Administrator (also serves as Executive Director of a Community Health Clinic): $109,500/year
Fiscal Director: approx. $60,000/year
Health Department Administrator: $72,114/year
Office Manager/Bookkeeper: $32,444,23
Public Health Administrator: previous- $78,280 new-$80,116,14
Financial Manager: previous-$35,650.94 new-$55,526.38