From former and candidate for McHenry County Board Ersel Schuster:
Installment II – Department 12: McHenry County Board:
Funded By: General Fund (Attachment A)
Mission Statement: ”McHenry County Government is dedicated to providing the highest quality services for the health, safety, and welfare of the county’s residents and communities. We foster representative and transparent government to ensure social, economic justice and environmental justice.”
Department Created By: “Illinois Compiled Statutes (55 ILCS 5/2) Counties Code.”
Classification – General Government
Background: “The County Board is the governing body of McHenry County. The twenty-four County
Board Members are elected at large to serve staggered terms of 2 and 4 years and may serve unlimited terms. The County Board elects a Chairperson to a term of 2 years to represent the County in legislative actions, associations, and other meetings to garner information and report back to the full board on actions that could be deemed necessary for the public safety and welfare of the citizens of McHenry County. Currently, the County Board has the following eleven Standing Committees consisting of members from each district: Building Projects; Legislative; Finance and Audit; Human Resources; Law & Justice; Liquor & License; Management Services; Planning & Development; Public Health & Human Services; Natural & Environmental Resources; and Transportation.”
Functions include: “Oversight of County “Budget”, “County Business/Operations,” “Public Safety and Welfare,” and “Financial Stewardship.”
Controlling Statutes: See (Attachment B) – most recent department document showing mandates.
Elected Officials: “24 county board members and, 2016, 1 elected county board chairman”
- Over the last several years, serious questions over county board member salaries, scheduled meeting attendance, mileage reimbursements, participation in the IMRF retirement plan, and insurance benefits have been raised.
- Solutions have been suggested and yet, nothing changes.
- State law mandates that salaries and benefits for elected officials are set a specific numbers of days prior to each election cycle. County board members could begin eliminating these benefits for those running for office in the 2016 election.
- Before addressing any specific issues, an elementary question must be answered: Are county board members full-time county employees, or part-time elected “public servants?” Current McHenry County Board structure assumes they are full-time employees, and as such, entitled to all employee benefits. They set their own salary and benefits package.
- Current annual compensation for each county board member is $21,000. In nearly all cases, members attend 2 county board meetings; between 5 and 6 standing committee meetings; and 1 special meeting assignment per month. Averaging this out, each member will participate in approximately 8 scheduled meetings per month. Calculating this at an annual salary of $21,000; divided by 96 meetings per year; each member would receive $218.75 per meeting under the “per diem” payment structure.
- At first blush, $218.75 per meeting sounds unreasonable, however, consider the point that meetings can last many hours and preparation for a meeting is considerable and time consuming. Further, this does not take into account extra meetings members attend for the purpose of personal preparation for the decisions they will ultimately be making. Numerous other factors also justify this amount.
- Under the per diem salary structure, members will only be paid for their attendance at assigned, scheduled meetings. Other details would be addressed as the County Board Rules (policies) are updated to reflect a change from the current flat salary to the per diem structure.
- Most recent discussions on these topics concluded with more of the same in… “kicking-the-can-down-the-road” as board members now suggest these issues should be addressed when all 25 members are up for election in 2020. Their reasoning is that making any changes now would mean that 12 of the 24 members up for election in 2016 will be at a disadvantage to those remaining members who would not be up for election until 2018. Those up for election in 2018 would continue to receive their current salary and benefits as set for their 4 year term in office beginning in 2014.
- Waiting until 2020 to make changes would cost the county well in excess of $1,500,000 for health and dental insurance. 2015 county board salary numbers are not yet published; thus, our spreadsheet (Attachment C) is based on published salary and benefits recorded in the county’s 2014 “Human Resources Compensation” document.
- Mileage reimbursement to county board members for attending meetings is another long standing question members must address. The most often repeated observation is… how many taxpayers are paid mileage reimbursement to drive to and from their place of employment?
- Health and dental insurance programs provided by the McHenry County are often referred to as “Cadillac” plans. As such, not only are county employees receiving insurance of greater value than the general public paying for this coverage, there will be a tremendous financial reckoning as the Affordable Health Care surcharge on Cadillac policies is applied.
- Additionally, McHenry County has accepted federal grant money to train individuals as “navigators” to enroll the public in the Affordable Health Care program. It would not be unreasonable to conclude that the county should switch from their Cadillac plans to the AFC plans?
Determine that County board members are part-time elected officials. All conversations and decisions need to be based on that fact.
- Remove county board health, dental, and retirement benefits.
- Return to the “per-diem” payment schedule at a rate of $220 per full meeting attended. Provide ½ the per diem rate for members who come late and/or leave a meeting early. Sadly this last statement is necessary.
- Eliminate the mileage reimbursement for county board members.
- Continue to maintain the county board attendance records on the county’s website.
Memorialized, in the County Board’s Mission Statement, Board Rules, and Policies, that they, as “public servants,” will protect and defend their constituent’s against any unreasonable tax burdens from the state or federals governments and by themselves.