Group: Smaller county board could lead to less diversity, bigger workload

 
 
Updated 7/21/2020 3:50 PM

Eliminating one-third of the seats on the DuPage County Board to save money also may lead to a lack of diversity on the panel, increased workloads for its members, and other concerns, according to a working group that examined the issue.

County board members are considering a proposal to reduce the size of the board from 18 to 12 members. If approved, the change would take effect by the 2022 election, when every board seat will be up because of redistricting after the 2020 census.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

To give the board guidance, some are calling for a nonbinding referendum question to be placed on the November ballot.

But after spending several weeks reviewing the proposal, a group of six county board members says an advisory referendum isn't necessary.

"We are recommending we stay at 18 members," said board member Ashley Selmon, an Addison Democrat, who is chairwoman of the County Board Size Working Group.

The recommendation comes three weeks before the full board must decide if it will pursue an advisory referendum question.

The working group voted unanimously Tuesday to send the report to the full county board, but two of its members --- Naperville Republican Jim Healy and Glen Ellyn Democrat Mary FitzGerald Ozog --- issued a statement saying they disagreed with the conclusion.

"Now that the county board has an opportunity to comment on this issue, we believe the voters of DuPage County have the right to have the same opportunity to comment on this topic in a nonbinding referendum this November," they wrote.

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The size of the board has remained unchanged since 2002, when a state law capped the county board at 18 members and required a separate board to govern the forest preserve district.

Supporters of eliminating six board seats argue it would save the county more than $312,000 in annual salaries. Each board member is paid $52,102 annually and can receive health and dental insurance through the county.

But the working group says in its recommendation that DuPage has a smaller county board than other collar counties.

"So we're already more reduced and more limber than our peers," Selmon said.

Selmon said eliminating board seats won't reduce the amount of work members must do, including fielding phone calls from residents. Therefore, the county may need to hire more staff to help.

"It's going to eat into that $300,000 (savings) quite quickly," she said.

According to its recommendation, the working group also is concerned that fewer members may lead to a lack of diversity on the county board, diminished opportunities for residents to serve, less representation at community and civic events, and the loss of institutional memory.

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