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County board compensation overhaul backed : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
County board compensation overhaul backed
Committee favors ending per diems, health and dental insurance, mileage

by Matt Schury


Major changes could be coming to the way Kendall County Board members are compensated.

The board's Per Diem Ad hoc committee voted unanimously Tuesday night to recommend to the full board the elimination of in-county mileage, taxpayer funded health insurance and per diem payments for board member meeting attendance.

The committee suggests the board replace those perks with a higher annual salary of $12,000 paid in $1,000 monthly increments. While hat salary would be five times larger than board members' $2,400 current salary, eliminating per diems and health insurance should ultimately reduce the amount the county has to budget for total compensation.

The recommendation stipulates that board members will still have "choice of health and dental insurance plan offered by the county with full cost of the plan paid by the County Board member." The recommendation also says that board members will only receive mileage reimbursement for out-of-county travel if they get written authorization from the board chairman prior to the meting occurring.

County Board member Amy Cesich, who chairs the committee, made the motion to send the item for a vote at the board's May 6 meeting with the stipulation that the changes not begin until 2016 for the five board seats that are up for election this fall.

Cesich's motion stated that "all compensation, mileage reimbursement and health benefits shall remain as stipulated" in the board's current policy with the above changes taking affect Dec. 1, 2016.

Cesich said this change will eliminate what board member John Purcell has dubbed a "bifurcated system" of compensation with some members receiving salaries and other still on the old per diem system. Purcell has said in the past he could not support such a system.

If the County Board adopts the plan next month, another vote would still be necessary to change the compensation package for the other five board seats that aren't up for reelection until 2016.

Despite the delay, Cesich said she felt it was a good compromise to get other board members to agree to the changes.

Tuesday's recommendation from the committee was the first from the group since they were charged with changing the policies with the way board members are compensated. Over the last few months, the group of five board members including Scott Gryder, Matt Prochaska, Lynn Cullick and Judy Gilmour have held three-hour meetings involving lengthy discussions on the way board members should be paid. Gilmour was absent from the meeting this week but has said in the past that she wanted to see a more equitable committee system if the board was going to go to just paying board members salaries and eliminating the $85 per diem payments they can receive for going to meetings.

Cullick said Tuesday that, while some board members may have more committee assignments, that didn't always guarantee the member was doing more work. She said that she felt board members should earn their pay and not be rewarded for being a "warm body in a chair."

"As a taxpayer I want you to earn it and do all the work that goes into it," Cullick said.

In order for the changes the to be approved, a supermajority of the 10 member board or seven board members, must support it. Board members have all agreed something needs to change with the compensation system but it is not known if the recommendation proposed by the committee will get enough votes to pass.

The committee also talked about adding attendance forms and sheets that members will have to sign to prove they were at a meeting. A new voucher form has also been suggested that provides more detail so it is clear which meeting a member is seeking a per diem for. They also debated which committee meetings should warrant collecting a per diem. The group also talked about adding training at the beginning of each county fiscal year to explain to board members how the per diem system works. Cesich also brought up the idea of posting board member's attendance records at meetings in one place on the county website.

Davidson defends
per diem system

Former board member Bob Davidson addressed the committee during the citizen's comment portion of the meeting and defended the per diem system. Davidson suggested that the policy simply needs to be fixed.

"I'm just saying what I see and what I think needs to be corrected when I was there," Davidson said. "This thing as gotten- as far as I'm concerned- a little bit out of hand."

Davidson is one of the 11 current and former board members whose per diem payments are included in an audit (see related story).

The per diem ad hoc committee will meet again May 13.

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