Editor's note: this story was changed to reflect the fact that Kurt Kojzarek does plan to pay into the county pension system, if elected.
By Tara García Mathewson
Candidates for the Kane County Board in Districts 19, 20 and 23 are split on whether they will take insurance and pension benefits offered to board members.
Cristina Castro, the Democratic incumbent in the 20th District, as well as her Republican challenger, Henoch Fuentes, do not plan to take the insurance benefit. Both get their insurance elsewhere, like Maggie Auger, the Republican incumbent in District 23.
Auger gets insurance through her husband's plan and said she does not need the taxpayer funded option. She and Castro are both paying into the pension system and would continue to do so if re-elected -- an option Fuentes would decline.
For Fuentes, it's more than just the availability of insurance elsewhere. He said he doesn't want to take money from taxpayers, especially because the board position would not be his principal source of work. Without it being a full-time job, Fuentes does not think he should take the benefit.
Hidayat Khan, a Democrat in the 19th District race, agrees.
"I honestly have no plans to gain anything as a financial benefit," Khan said. "I'm not going to get any financial gains with this job. Not really."
Board members do receive a $24,000 salary for their service.
Kevin Smith, a Democrat in the 23rd District race, thinks the insurance benefits should be offered to board members -- and all part-time county employees, for that matter. Smith said it's a slippery slope to say part-time employees don't deserve them.
"It seems to be a trend with corporations. Instead of hiring full-time people they just hire two part-time people to do the work of one full-time person to skirt the benefits," Smith said.
Kurt Kojzarek, a Republican running for the 19th District spot, also plans to accept the health insurance benefit. Because many of the county meetings will take place during the day, Kojzarek plans to cut his hours at work to part time and will then lose his benefits.
He said increasing the premium amount board members pay would be a better solution than discontinuing the benefit, in light of the controversy.
For Kojzarek, the bigger problem in government benefits is pensions. He points to those "double-dipping" by collecting a pension from multiple government jobs as the real offenders.
"The people who are focusing on this are really missing the larger issues that are facing our county," Kojzarek said.
Kojzarek already has money in a government pension system that he will roll into the county plan, if elected.