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Don't let county board take a pass on pay, perks : Editorials : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Don't let county board take a pass on pay, perks

Should the 10 members of the Kendall County Board in their capacity as part-time elected officials receive-in addition to an annual salary of $2,400-$85 per diems, mileage reimbursements when they drive to work to collect those per diems, health and dental insurance, and be eligible to participate in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF)? We don't believe so and we are certain the vast majority of the county's taxpayers would agree with us.

As we've reported over the past several weeks members of the board's Ad Hoc Per Diem committee have been discussing and debating changing the manner in which county board members are compensated.

The committee was organized to review the board's compensation in the wake of a nearly two-year investigation of per diem payments to board members by Kendall County State's Attorney Eric Weis and a private auditing firm. As a result of Weis' investigation 11 current and former board members will soon receive letters from Weis asking for repayment of wrongly claimed per diems. Weis has confirmed 11 board members may collectively owe the county and its taxpayers $50,000.

We believe board member Amy Cesich, ad hoc committee chairman, was correct this past week when she advocated for the elimination of the board's per diem payments, mileage reimbursements for in-county travel, and health and dental insurance. In exchange for doing away with those taxpayer funded perks, she proposed board members be paid only monthly salaries.

Other board members, however, voiced opposition to Cesich's proposal and it now appears possible the board may not be able to reach a consensus on a compensation plan that will protect the taxpayers' and save them money going forward.

Under state law, if the board fails to come to some kind of agreement on a plan prior to June 1 there will be no change in the compensation for the five board members who will be elected to four-year terms on the board Nov. 4.

County taxpayers should not give the current 10 board members a pass on this issue. We encourage taxpayers to call or email the 10 board members and urge them to drastically change the board's compensation and benefits package. They should tell board members to do away with the per diems and accept a monthly salary. They should also tell board members to do away with their health and dental insurance, in-county mileage reimbursements and participation in the IMRF.

How much should county board members earn each month for their part-time public service? Some board members have proposed that if their benefits are eliminated, their salaries should be bumped up to more than $18,000. In our view, such an amount is unconscionable and far in excess of what a part-time public servant should receive, especially when compared to the salaries currently paid to part-time elected officials in the county's municipalities. (For the record, Oswego Village Board members can earn a maximum of $6,600 annually, Montgomery Village Board members are paid $7,200; and Yorkville City council members earn about $6,000)

One argument County Board members have made for their pay is the high number of meetings they attend per month. There are 14 County Board committees in addition to 20 other appointments of board members as the county liaison to other boards. By comparison, Oswego's Village Board has no standing committees, Montgomery's Village Board has two (only one of which meets year round), and Yorkville's City Council has four.

We can't help but feel that some of these county board committees could be combined. As Yorkville, Oswego and Montgomery do, the county has a full-time administrator, as well as several elected and appointed department heads. The role of the County Board should be to set policy while the day-to-day management of the county should be done by those full-time employees.

If current county board members object to the prospect of the board members elected in November and subsequent elections receiving a significantly reduced wage and benefits package, they should re-evaluate why they ran for the board in the first place.

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