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McHenry County Board to hold off on benefit elimination vote until February

Benefit elimination resolutions to come before the County Board in February

Michael Vijuk (from left), Paula Yensen and Kelli Wegener deliver their presentation to eliminate insurance and benefits for County Board members during a McHenry County Administrative Services Committee meeting Monday at the McHenry County Administration Building in Woodstock.
Michael Vijuk (from left), Paula Yensen and Kelli Wegener deliver their presentation to eliminate insurance and benefits for County Board members during a McHenry County Administrative Services Committee meeting Monday at the McHenry County Administration Building in Woodstock.

McHenry County Board members will be given another month to decide on a pair of resolutions calling for the elimination of insurance and mileage benefits estimated to cost about $317,000 annually.

The resolutions – which were spearheaded by board members Michael Vijuk, Paula Yensen and Kelli Wegener – call for the immediate elimination of mileage reimbursements for attending regularly scheduled assigned meetings and for the elimination of health insurance benefits for County Board members starting Dec. 1, 2022, at which point the County Board will be reduced from 24 members to 18.

Currently, a total of 10 board members do not sign up for insurance coverage, and eight do not request mileage reimbursement.

Wegener said elected officials don’t deserve to receive benefits that part-time employees of the county don’t receive. McHenry County Human Resources Director Cheryl Chukwu said that there are about 200 part-time county employees.

“We have asked all the county departments to cut their budgets, but we have not asked the same of ourselves,” Wegener said. “By eliminating the mileage reimbursement, we are showing a good-faith effort that we are also willing to take steps to reduce costs even if it does sting.”

Board Chairman Jack Franks planned to call the resolutions for a vote during the board’s Jan. 21 meeting. But during an Administrative Services Committee meeting Wednesday, several members felt that this left inadequate time to analyze the effects of this decision.

Board member John Reinert, who does not serve on the committee but was in attendance for the meeting, said he was in favor of tabling the measure to prevent committee members from making a knee-jerk decision without thorough discussion of the issue. Reinert said one of the big concerns is that lowering compensation could discourage candidates from running for office.

“You don’t have all the answers here, and if you make a decision, you might give the Committee of the Whole the wrong impression,” Reinert said.

Three separate motions were introduced to table the health insurance resolution: one until February, one until April and one until August. Although the April and August motions to table were voted down, the committee voted, 6-1, to table both measures until February.

Franks said he thinks the reforms are no-brainers, but is more than willing to honor the committee’s request for a Committee of the Whole meeting to address any concerns. Franks said that he is targeting Jan. 24 or 28 for a special Committee of the Whole meeting to discuss the items.

State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, said he was supportive of the measures and that the people of McHenry County deserve better than part-time officials who want free health care benefits and local mileage reimbursements.

“Employees should have a right to health care coverage, not elected government officials,” McSweeney said.

According to the insurance resolution, board member health insurance is estimated to cost more than $300,000 a year. Franks said this amounts to about $21,000 a year a board member.

In comparison, Lake County allocates up to $7,080 annually to medical insurance for board members, according to the county’s latest compensation report. In Kane County, board members received up to $17,895 from the county for health insurance in 2019.

McHenry County Board member Yvonne Barnes said she disagreed with a portion of the insurance resolution classifying a board member as part-time – or working less than 30 hours a week – under the Affordable Care Act.

“To do this job well, it’s going to take 30 hours a week,” Barnes said.

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