Kane County Board shuns effort to slash 25% of its membership
Nearly 10 years ago, Kane County Board members engaged in a civil war of dueling maps and behind-the-scenes deals in the lead-up to sacrificing two of their own after the 2010 census and mandatory redistricting.
On Wednesday, board members indicated they aren't eager to run that gantlet again.
Board member Mo Iqbal pitched a plan that would have placed an advisory question on the November ballot. The question would have asked Kane County voters if they wanted to cut six seats from the board, shrinking it from 24 to 18 members.
The county board would not be mandated to abide by what the voters said, but Iqbal believed the input would be a valuable factor in redrawing the lines of the districts the board members represent.
"We're saying we would like to get some input from our bosses - the voters," Iqbal told the board's legislative committee.
Iqbal argued the $25,000 salary county board members receive, along with full health and dental benefits, might be a cost local taxpayers would like to see trimmed. He pointed out the board positions are considered part-time jobs.
But foes of Iqbal's plan said cutting board positions means diluting representation for taxpayers while increasing work for the board.
Board member Matt Hanson said Kane County residents get a good deal, even compared to DuPage County, which has an 18-member board.
"I respect Mr. Iqbal's diligence and drive in consolidating government," Hanson said. "But I'll never flippantly vote for less representation. We are a very diverse county. There's a lot of work to do.
Hanson argued cutting the seats wouldn't necessarily reflect cost savings in comparison to their neighbors. For instance, DuPage County also elects, and pays, six representatives to serve on the forest preserve district board.
In Kane County, representatives serve dual roles on the county board and the forest district board. That also used to be the case in DuPage County until residents there determined serving in both capacities sometimes fueled conflicts of interest between the two taxing bodies.
Board member Jarett Sanchez said trimming the Kane County Board and increasing the workload might also fuel discussions about a raise for board members - wiping out any possible savings.
With that in mind, the committee voted 4-3 against placing the advisory question on the ballot. The only path left to get the question on the ballot now would be to secure enough petition signatures from Kane County voters.
State law bases the number of signatures needed for that effort at 8% of the total ballots cast in the last gubernatorial election. In Kane County, that would mean 13,577 signatures. The deadline to do that is Aug. 27.
In an interview, Iqbal said he doesn't see that happening.
"Due to COVID-19, and in consideration of public health issues, I did not want to pursue that option," Iqbal said. "I believe the issue will persist, and it will be discussed by the (county board) candidates in forums before the November elections."
State law limits the size of a county board to no more than 18 members in counties larger than 800,000 residents. The 2019 Census population estimate for Kane County is 532,000.