McHenry County Board raises sheriff’s pay to comply with new state law

Increase of $10,000 in 2023 will bring annual salary to $163,200

McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim speaks to attendees during a ceremony honoring the late Deputy Jacob Keltner at the McHenry County Sheriff's Office in Woodstock in this file photo.

Following a new state law, the McHenry County Board approved an increase to the sheriff’s salary for fiscal 2023 and 2024, but some board members said they were concerned with how quickly the item was pushed through.

The resolution to increase the sheriff’s pay, which did not appear in the preceding county’s Committee of the Whole meeting as agenda items normally would, will see the position receive $163,200 annually, about $10,000 more than originally planned in 2023 and 2024.

The item showing up at the last minute caused some members to come out against it originally. While many said they didn’t mind the increase, some recommended tabling it to discuss it further.

“I would have liked to have had documentation on this,” County Board member Theresa Meshes, D-Fox River Grove, said at the board’s May 17 meeting. “Not just this moment to decide on this.”

“This is the first I’m hearing of it,” said County Board member Kelli Wegener, D-Crystal Lake, echoing similar comments to Meshes. “I just would have liked to have a little more information of how this came about.”

Sheriff Bill Prim said he heard about it just a few days before the meeting, saying it came about in a “fairly rapid fashion.” He apologized for how quickly it was put together.

“I did not have any input into this resolution, and we did not have any prior conversations,” Prim said. “This has been on my desk since Thursday [May 12].”

The final salary is required to be voted on at least six months prior to the new sheriff being sworn in, County Administrator Peter Austin said at the meeting.

A new sheriff is set be chosen in the November election and would be sworn in the following month.

“That is why we rushed this,” Austin said. “That is why it didn’t go to committee.”

With the resolution passed, the sheriff will receive about $163,200 for both 2023 and 2024, but that could go up given a recent state statute that partially ties the salary to that of the state’s attorney, according to county material.

The law, approved in April, requires sheriffs in Illinois to receive at least 80% of the salary a county state’s attorney receives starting in fiscal 2023, according to county documents.

The law also would see the state pay about two-thirds of the sheriff’s salary, according to county material. Currently, the county pays all of the salary.

Even with the increase, the law change would mean a “significant savings” to the county if the state starts paying the majority of the salary, said County Board member Jeffrey Schwartz, R-McHenry.

The current salary is just shy of $150,000 and was set to increase to $152,000 after the new sheriff is elected as part of a series of increases approved in September.

The sheriff’s salary would be under that 80% requirement by fiscal 2024, county documents show. The state’s attorney is expected to take home a little less than $193,000 that year. The sheriff’s pay that year would have been a little less than 79% of the state’s attorney’s.

“In a year, we would need to adjust these anyway,” said County Board member Carolyn Schofield, R-Crystal Lake. “We’d be out of compliance in a year. This would take care of the first two years. It’s a no-brainer for me.”

From fiscal 2025 to 2032, the salary will be whichever is greatest between the minimum state requirement or the previous year’s salary plus either 3% or the inflation rate, according to documents.