Yesterday, the answers to the $41.3 million Valley Hi Nursing Home bank balance question by the ten candidates for District 4, 5 and 6 County Board seats were shared with McHenry County Blog readers.
One of the six questions that found its way into the McHenry County League of Women Voters forum for County Board candidates running in Districts 4, 5 and 6 Tuesday night was about the pensions that the “part-time” County Board members receive.
(Actually, starting with those elected in 2014, not all of them take the pension. Andrew Gasser, for instance, is not doing so.)
The question had two parts:
- Should County Board members receive pensions for part-time positions?
- Will you take a pension or not?
First to answer was District 4 incumbent Sue Draffkorn from Wonder Lake.
She said the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) pension was appropriate and that she would be collecting about $300 a month, “not something I can live on.”
Draffkorn will have ten years in the pension program by the time she finishes this term.
She said it was difficult to hold a full-time job while being a County Board member.
In the same district, but answering last was Kay Bates.
The final one to answer the question was District 4 challenger Kay Bates.
“We get a pension?” she asked incredulously.
“I didn’t know about that.
“I will not be taking it.”
Craig Wilcox talked of a Freedom Pledge which led him to revealing that he is voluntarily term limiting himself to two terms. (There was no term limit question.)
“I will not be taking the public pension,” the District 4 candidate pledged.
Next was District 5 candidate Joe Calomino.
His answer was short:
“I do not plan on taking the pension.”
District 5 incumbent Mike Skala’s reply was even shorter:
The questions, remember, were (1) should the county board members have a pension and (2) are you going to take a pension.
I was confused because Skala is already in the pension program and, once one is in, the only way out is for the County Board to pull everyone on the Board out of IMRF.
So, after the meeting, I asked Skala to expand on his answer.
He said he favored County Board members having a pension, but would not be taking his because “I won’t be there long enough to qualify.”
It is my understanding that one must be in IMRF for eight years to qualify for a pension.
District 5 challenger Andy Snarski said he did not only disapprove of the part-time County Board members receiving a pension, but that he would not participate in the pension program.
Further, he said he would not take part in what he characterized as the County’s Cadillac health care plan.
He went on to suggest that per diems (being paid for each meeting attended) would be better than salaries now paid.
Referring to Draffkorn’s estimated $300 a month IMRF pension, Snarski quoted her:
“It’s just a little bit–$300.”
“That’s what’s crushing us,” he said referring to the little bits here and the little bits there.
Grafton Township Supervisor, running for a District 6 seat, said he approved of the pension for County Board m embers and would take it.
Another District 6 non-incumbent, Kelly Liebmann challenged the question’s premise.
She said the position was a full-time, not a part-time job.
(The job pays about $21,000 a year, plus pension, Social Security contributions and health insurance, the combination of which can double to salary in some cases.)
With regard to whether she would take the pension, she said her husband favored her participation in IMRF, but she was leaning against it.
The third District 5 challenger, Alden Township Supervisor Preston Rea agreed with Liebmann with regard to the job not being a part-time one.
“The benefits that are out there should be there.
“There has to be some benefit to doing this.”
Non-incumbent Ersel Schuster, running to regain her seat on the County Board in District 6 mentioned her web site more than any other candidate.
She said eliminating the County Board members’ pensions was “Number one in my document for proposing saving money.”
When she was in office in the 1990’s, she said she had “no choice.”
Continuing, Schuster said she “would take it, if I paid into it.”
As a long-time Seneca Township Supervisor, Schuster was in the same pension fund in which county employees participate.
Members “should not be taking health insurance,” she asserted, pointing out that “It doubles the salary.”
The question of whether candidates would take health benefits, which can almost equal members’ salaries was not asked, although, as you can see above, the subject was brought up.
Incumbent Mary McCann did not attend the McHenry County League of Women Voters Forum.