In the last Republican Primary election two candidates campaigning on not taking pension and health benefits.
They were District 1 candidates Andrew Gasser and David Stieper. Gasser won the primary and the election, while Stieper lost to incumbent Republican Robert Nowak.
Stieper did have a good graphic, however, which shows how the issue of fringe benefits for County Board members can be merchandised.
As the discussion of compensation for McHenry County Board members continued (see first article here), Finance Committee Chairman Mike Skala moved to remove all fringe benefits.
For background, below you can see a table showing fringe benefits paid last year (Dec. 2013 through Nov., 2014). (Mileage isn’t really a fringe benefit, in my opinion, but it’s on the page so I didn’t take it off.)
As you can see, health benefits exceeded the $21,000 annual salary for Skala and now-retired County Board member Sandra Salgado.
After his motion, Skala said, “It’s costing the County.”
McCann seconded Skala’s motion.
“Do we really want to go into that?” Provenzano asked.
“I’m going to be one of the people going up for re-election, so I’m chopping myself,” Skala replied.
“I’m fine with that.”
McCann pointed out that medical costs increase 7% for 2015.
Last year, she said it cost $250-270,000 per year.
“So, here we are in an HR (Human Resources) meeting,” Provenzano observed.
McCann asked about IMRF (Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund) pension payments.
“10,24%,” Associate County Administrator for Finance Ralph Sarbaugh told the Committee members.
“I would have preferred knowing about this before right now,” Yvonne Barnes said.
“I’m real concerned about doing these kinds of things…at the last minute.”
Referring to the requirement that the compensation of elected public officials cannot be changed during their terms, she pointed out, “Half o of the Board [would get] one set of benefits and the another another.”
“I suggest we send it back to HR,” McCann replied.
“My concern is that we’re once again trying to jump over nickels to save nickels,” Provenzano said.
He pointed to a recent hiring for the 911 Board with which he disagreed.
“This Board has a history of spending more,” he continued.
“[Our] compensation, I think, is fair.
“I’m more concerned with County Board members who don’t show up to meetings week, after week after week after week.
“I think this is a side show.”
“If we’re going to discuss fringe benefits,” Chuck Wheeler said, “let’s look at it from an equity standpoint.
“Pick a number out of the air–$10,000.
“[Assume] each gets [that amount to spend on fringe benefits of one’s choice.]
“If 10,001, [the extra comes out of your salary.”
He compared a member with four dependents with one who is single with none.
“Where’s the equity there?”
“For all employees?” asked Provenzano/
“Yes,” Wheeler replied.
“That’s equity. That’s purity.”
“We’re really paying a lot for our health care,” McCann said, before asking for a joint meeting of the Human Resources and Finance Committees.
Referring I think to participation in the pension system County HR Director Cheryl Chukwu said that all or none of the County Board members have to participate.
“Either you’re all in or you’re all out,” she said.
(Of course, that does not refer to Gasser, who did not sign up for the pension program after he was sworn in.)
County Administrator Peter Austin echoed her sentiment:
“Half and half. A bit problematic.”
“I’m not comfortable having this discussion,” Larry Smith said, suggesting it be done in 2020.
Returning to the discussion on per diem, which McCann originally brought up, Barnes said, “I don’t disagree with changing the salary, a change to per diem.
“I will support Nick 100% in having accountability.
“We need to make County Board members accountable for our time.”
McCann’s amendment concerning going to a per diem with a $21,000 maximum was withdrawn with permission of its second.
Here my notes are inadequate.
Skala’s amendment to eliminate fringe benefits was defeated or withdrawn.
The resolution was passed with McCann, Skala and Wheeler voting against it.
Then, to my surprise, an announcement was made that it would go on the County’s Consent Calendar, meaning there floor discussion will be impossible unless someone takes it off the Consent Calendar.