On the verge of the spring election, Schaumburg Township board members recently voted against raising their pay and to cut off future access to taxpayer-funded insurance benefits to help return the latest tax levy to 2009 levels.
The moves already have sparked debate between the Republican incumbents on the township board and a slate of Democrats challenging them in the April 9 election.
The incumbents point to their action as evidence they're helping taxpayers by making do with less. But challengers say they're politically motivated decisions meant to distract voters from board members' past indulgences.
Township Supervisor Mary Wroblewski, who is running unopposed, said the current board hopes to be an example to other, higher levels of government about how to keep services affordable to taxpayers.
"We're probably the only government body that did something like that," she said of the levy reduction. "We heard (taxpayers), and we're trying to do more with less."
Wroblewski said the township's decision was intended to walk the fine line between giving taxpayers a break and staying aware that more residents turn to townships for assistance during hard economic times.
The township's 2012 levy, to be collected in 2013, is $4.78 million -- on par with the 2009 levy collected in 2010. The 2011 levy was $4.84 million.
The reduction, Wroblewski said, was possible even though the township is in the midst of two capital projects: rehabs of the township hall's parking lot and gym floor. Staff members even got a rate-of-inflation raise this year after receiving no raise at all last year.
But board members voted against pay raises for elected officials, and took the insurance benefits to which they and their predecessors have always had access off the table for the officials to be elected in April. Only three of the nine elected officials currently are receiving township-funded insurance benefits, Township Administrator Larry Weniger said.
The Democratic slate of trustee candidates -- Moe Patel, Mike Murray, Carolyn Quinn and Zuhair Nubani -- and highway commissioner candidate Michael Lenehan issued a statement Tuesday responding to the board's recent actions.
"Last fall, the Schaumburg Township trustees finally acknowledged that township trustees do not deserve the taxpayer-funded health care that they themselves received over the past four years," the statement reads. "This move was clearly designed to provide political cover during an election year for the Republican township trustees who have received full health care and pension benefits for their part-time position."
The Democratic slate -- calling itself Neighbors for a New Start -- went on to challenge officials who've taken insurance benefits to reimburse the township for them.
"The public deserves to know why it took so long for the Republican trustees to take action and abolish the political perk that they have taken full advantage of for years," the statement reads.
Wroblewski responded that the board abandoned the old pension system a few years ago and that new officials and staff members now come in under Social Security.
"The board does not vote for their own benefits but for the benefits of the board that comes after them -- and you never know who that's going to be," Wroblewski said.
The other Republican candidates are incumbents Robert Vinnedge, Jeffrey Mytych, Diane Dunham and newcomer Nimish Jani for trustee; and current Trustee Scott Kegarise for highway commissioner.
Clerk Timothy Heneghan and Assessor John Lawson are unopposed, like Wroblewski, in their re-election bids.
An electoral board hearing at 10:30 a.m. today is expected to determine the outcome of two objections against the Democratic slate. One questions whether their statements of economic interest were properly filed and the other questions the authority of newly appointed Democratic Committeeman Mike Cudzik to slate them all.