Local Editorials

Our View: McHenry County Board should act now to cut elected officials' pay

McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks speaks at the podium during a League of Women Voters forum discussing the dilemma of an elected coroner's office on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020 at McHenry County College in Crystal Lake.
McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks speaks at the podium during a League of Women Voters forum discussing the dilemma of an elected coroner's office on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020 at McHenry County College in Crystal Lake.

It’s clear that the COVID-19 pandemic will have a large financial impact on individuals and businesses.

But it will also have a huge impact on local governments, particularly those governments that rely on sales taxes or revenue resulting from a normal business environment.

What we are currently involved in is anything but that, as evidenced by McHenry County’s estimation that its funding could be down anywhere from $6 million to $22 million this fiscal year.

For local governments, the time is now to make moves to counteract the budgetary changes.

That includes a proposal from McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks to cut the pay of elected county officials, including his own position, by 10% going forward.

The McHenry County Board should approve that move – and one to require board members to fill out time sheets to prove they are working the state-required 20-hours per week in order to be considered full time. The change will be discussed at Thursday’s Committee of the Whole and then will be voted on at Tuesday's board meeting.

The tough financial times have just started but the adjustments to government spending will have to be secured for upcoming years as well.

If the board waits for the next meeting and drags its feet on approving the measure like board member Michael Skala has suggested, the changes won’t happen, because a proposal needs to be approved more than six months before officeholders take over on Jan. 1 for the salary adjustment to be in effect during this election cycle.

Before the pandemic, a cost-of-living raise was proposed for these officeholders, but it’s clear now that a raise would be inappropriate.

The residents and local businesses are pushing through tough times and make both temporary and permanent salary adjustments along with other cost-saving measures or worse. Our government officials should not be immune.

The time sheets are similar. While county board members generally don’t make a lot for their service – in the ballpark of $21,000 annually – justifying their eligibility for county health-care insurance is necessary. For many, the county’s cost related to that health care is higher than the salary of the 18 board members who elect to take the county’s insurance.

Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund rules require local government workers to work 1,000 hours per year, or 20 per week, in order to be eligible for that benefit.

It only stands to reason that our local public officials should be required to fill out time cards to prove their eligibility for the costly benefit.

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