When you ask candidates for the Kane County Board's 21st District whether they'd accept a public pension for service, things get a little complicated.
While two out of the three Republicans running for office say they would not accept one, another candidate would have to temporarily relinquish his -- if elected.
Fourteen of the 26 current board members take the health insurance perk, while 23 board members take the optional pension benefit. Thirteen board members take both perks and only three board members rejected both the pension and the health insurance.
Lee Barrett, 74, an engineer, has arranged for his own health care and already collects a $180 monthly pension from the eight years he spent on the county board in the 1990s.
"The way it was set up is that you contributed to a pension, so you invest in it and then you draw out," the East Dundee resident said. "They just gave me the papers and I went there and signed them, just like you do at any job. It isn't much, but I don't know if you can get out."
If re-elected to the board, Barrett should prepare to temporarily surrender his pension, said Linda Horrell, communications manager for the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, which administers pensions for Kane County Board members.
Because Barrett agreed to receive a pension when he was previously on the board, there is no way for him to opt out of the program now, Horrell said.
If he wins the seat, he cannot collect his pension while in office because he will be earning service hours toward it while he is on the board. Those service hours would be recalculated once he leaves office, at which time, his pension would be restored.
"Once an elected official signs a form that says, 'I wish to participate,' that decision cannot be revoked," Horrell said. "So if he's re-elected to the same position, he must again participate and he cannot participate in IMRF and receive a pension at the same time."
Don Rage, 54, of Sleepy Hollow, didn't accept a pension from his eight years of service on the board and said he has no plans to start if he's elected again. Rage, owner of Rage Property Management, says he would only serve two terms in office, which would not make him eligible to collect a pension -- you now need to serve 10 years instead of eight.
Rage is also set with his own health insurance.
Meanwhile, Becky Gillam, 51, already gets health care through her husband, Craig, who works at a forklift company in Elgin, so she would opt out of the county's plan.
As for a public pension, Gillam says she wants no part of that and considers it a luxury that a part-time board member could ever collect one. Gillam is a seasonal worker at Platt Hill Nursery and a West Dundee village trustee.
"The pension system in the state of Illinois is so convoluted and in disrepair that I would never dream of jumping on that bandwagon," Gillam said. "We're here to serve and I don't think it's doing our constituents any service if we're making the matters worse, so until they figure that out and get that fixed on a higher level, I would not choose to do that."
The trio are running for the seat now occupied by Tim Haley, who is not seeking re-election. The 21st District covers parts of Elgin, Carpentersville, East Dundee, West Dundee, Sleepy Hollow and Gilberts.
The primary election is Tuesday.