La Salle County is hoping a hike in salaries for those at the La Salle County Nursing Home will lead to more interest in workers.

The La Salle County Board approved tentative contracts Thursday with The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) unions that oversee county employees and elected officials.

La Salle County Chairman Jim Olson, D-Seneca, said particular attention was paid to the nursing home with regards to pay increases.

"There are some adjustments that have been done in the nursing home to bring up some of the staff to an equitable rate," Olson said after the meeting. "They are having a real hard time hiring employees at the current rate."

Olson said the county struggles to hire low-paying positions but it's made more difficult at the nursing home where state law requires them to have a certain number of staff members for residents.

"So we're turning people away because we don't have the staff," Olson said.

"We need to deal with it because we're not able to bring the census up out there like we want because we don't have the staffing," he added.

Olson said he didn't have a firm number as to how much additional money the county will be spending to make up for the pay increases but expects it'll balance out due to other negotiated provisions.

One example is all new hires will pay 30% of their health insurance instead of 20% for current employees.

"I do believe some of the insurance reforms we've implemented ultimately will save the county money," Olson said. "So we're hoping there's some tradeoff there."

Kinda Pottinger, R-Sheridan; Chuck Borchsenius, R-Sheridan; Steve Tuftie, R-Ottawa; and Curtis Faber, R-Mendota, voted no on the union contracts that were approved by an 18-4 vote.

Tuftie said after the meeting he was attempting to be responsible with the county's finances.

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