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Board deadlocks and taxpayers lose : Editorials : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Board deadlocks and taxpayers lose

Kendall County taxpayers will continue to pay for health insurance benefits and mileage for their part-time county board members until at least 2016.

As we reported last Thursday, the board rejected a proposal from its ad hoc per diem study committee to replace the board's long-standing compensation and benefits program with monthly salaries.

The proposal died when the board deadlocked in a 5-5 tie vote.

Taxpayers should remember that the committee's proposal would have saved them thousands of dollars if it had been approved. But, instead, five board members voted to maintain the status quo. Those five board members were: Judy Gilmour, John Purcell, Jeff Wehrli, Dan Koukol and Elizabeth Flowers.

As we noted in this space many time before, we do not believe taxpayers should have to pay county board members for their gas to drive to public meetings held in the county. Furthermore, service on the board is not a full-time job. Therefore, taxpayers should not have to pay full health insurance benefits for their part-time board members. We have yet to hear of an employer in the private sector that pays for the full cost of health insurance plus mileage for their part-time employees.

Taxpayers should also remember that the board's current compensation system has been the subject of a two-year investigation by the county state's attorney. County State's Attorney Eric Weis has confirmed that some current and former county board members may have wrongfully claimed as much as $50,000 in per diem payments.

Replacing the county's per diem payment system with straight salaries would have eliminated the possibility of future abuses, while also freeing up the staff at the county treasurer's office to focus their efforts on serving the public. Taxpayers should also remember that most other village boards and city councils in the county are paid comparatively modest salaries and receive no in-county mileage reimbursements, per diems, health insurance or other compensation. (Members of school district boards-the largest taxing bodies in the county that account for roughly 70 percent of your property tax bill-are barred under state law from receiving any compensation.)

Sadly, taxpayers concerned about the board's compensation have little immediate recourse. Of the five board members who voted to maintain the status quo, Gilmour is the only one who will stand for re-election in November. The four other board members who cast "no" votes on the proposal, Purcell, Wehrli, Koukol and Flowers, are all serving terms that will expire in 2016.

The board had a real opportunity last week to save taxpayers' some significant money while also restoring some badly needed integrity to the method in which they are compensated, but they took a pass. Taxpayers should keep that in mind and remember to ask whoever runs for board seats in two years where they stand on the compensation and benefits issue. We certainly will.

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