Most sheriffs in Illinois got a pay increase. That wasn’t determined by local county boards, but by the state.
The Illinois Sheriffs’ Association supported House Bill 4700 in 2022, which changed the way sheriffs across that state get paid. The process of how sheriffs get paid now mimics how state’s attorneys across the state get paid.
According to the law, sheriffs have to be paid at least 80% of what the state’s attorney in that county is paid. The law also says that the state of Illinois pays for about 66% of that salary, the county treasurer then picks up the other 34%. The county board cannot withhold their portion because the law mandates the county treasurer pay that portion out from the county budget.
“I don’t know what they were trying to fix there but it did give several sheriffs across the state an increase,” said McLean County Sheriff Matt Lane.
In January 2023, nearly 80 of the 102 Illinois sheriff’s vowed to defy the state’s ban on certain semi-automatic firearms and magazines over certain capacities. Lane stood against the ban prior to the Illinois Supreme Court upholding the ban. He said if Springfield was attempting to buy off the sheriffs with a pay increase, he is “positive it didn’t work.”
“I think each sheriff is an individual thinker and they won’t go along with a program if they don’t think it’s the right thing to do, whether that’s a law or policy that the governor wants to put into effect, regardless of any salary increase or decrease,” Lane said. “That’s not what we are here for.”
A similar pay structure could soon be applied to county clerks across the state. Senate Bill 2131 was introduced by state Sen. Doris Turner, D-Springfield, in February of this year. The legislation remains in committee.
Illinois Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director Jim Kaitschuk said sheriffs across the state used to be in a position where they were trying to negotiate their salary on top of everything else and that’s why the association helped pass the provision in HB4700 in 2022.
“State’s attorneys are elected at the county level and their salary is set this way. Sheriffs are just mimicking what the state’s attorneys do,” said Kaitschuk.
Critics, like former Livingston County Board member Mike Kirkton, are drawing attention to this change and calling it a “violation of county rights.”
“The state wants to take over,” said Kirkton. “Why do we vote for elected officials if all of these decisions are being taken away from them?”
Kirkton served on the finance committee in 2022 and the finance committee decided to increase the sheriff salary before the primary election to $93,500.
“That was an increase for the sheriff, that was based on our budget, what other sheriffs were paid with similar population size and what we thought, as a committee, was the right thing to do,” said Kirkton. “We met and debated in committee and came up with $93,500 and then several months later in July, that’s when HB4700 came out and said the sheriffs’ pay is 80% of the state’s attorneys pay and the state of Illinois now pays the county sheriffs.”
The elected Livingston County Sheriff Ryan Bohm got a pay increase. His salary, post-HB4700, is now about $158,000.
***Courtesy of the Illinois Radio Network***