Republican challengers in one DuPage County Board primary race say they won't take a pension if they are elected to the part-time positions.
Meanwhile, the two incumbents in the District 5 GOP primary said they would give up the publicly funded retirement benefit if they could opt out or participate in a 401(k) plan. But that can't happen unless state law is changed.
The issue of pensions for board members dominated the discussion during Monday's Daily Herald endorsement interview of the seven candidates seeking the Republican nomination for three District 5 seats in the March 20 primary. The primary winners will face Democratic incumbent Tony Michelassi of Aurora in the November general election. Michelassi is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.
District 5 includes parts of Aurora, Lisle, Naperville, Warrenville and Woodridge.
GOP incumbents James Healy and John Zediker, both of Naperville, are among 15 county board members enrolled in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund. Board members aren't required to enroll in IMRF, but once they do, they can't withdraw unless they leave office.
Michelassi is one of the three board members who decided not to participate in the pension program.
All five of the GOP challengers facing Healy and Zediker said they have no desire to get a pension for being a county board member. They are: Lisle Trustee Ed Young, former Naperville Councilman Richard "Dick" Furstenau, Naperville resident Patty Gustin and Aurora residents Paul Santucci and Tonia Khouri.
"I do not believe part-time positions should receive publicly funded pensions," Khouri said. "I have lived my life in the private sector. I would like to see the public sector come more in line with the private sector."
Gustin agreed, adding that it would be inappropriate to get a pension as a county board member "when so many people out there are struggling."
Young said he believes the pension benefits for county board members "are way out of line."
He pointed to the fact that board members become vested after eight years. After 20 years, board members are eligible to receive 80 percent of their final year's salary. The current salary for a DuPage board member is $50,000 a year.
"Where does anybody get vested in eight years?" Young said. "No place in the private sector. That doesn't make any sense."
Zediker said he believes pensions should be eliminated for future county board members. He added that existing board members should be given the chance to opt out or migrate to a 401(k) program.
"If I was given the opportunity to opt out, I'd opt out," he said.
Healy said the problem is state law would need to be changed. A proposal that would have allowed county employees and elected officials across the state to opt out of IMRF and participate in a 401(k) plan was defeated last year in Springfield, he said.
"I just want a 401(k)," said Healy, adding that he's planning to ask state lawmakers to consider the issue again.