McHenry County Board members approve new budget policy after heated debate over role of chairman
After a heated debate Wednesday morning, McHenry County Board members approved a new budget policy that omits the county board chairman when listing the department heads who should be involved in various aspects of budget proceedings.
In a special meeting, county board members voted, 17-4, to approve the new budget policy, which passed through the county's finance and audit committee in May but was never brought before the full board for approval.
Board member Michael Vijuk, the only of the committee's eight members who voted against the policy in May, said, as the head of his department, Chairman Jack Franks should be included in the policy.
"The changes to the budget policy, by removing the duly-elected county board chairman, in my opinion, is shortsighted at the very least and will, in the long term, reduce the success of the budget policy and our fiscal responsibility to manage the people's money left in our care," Vijuk said.
Under the new policy, Franks still would be able to contribute to budgetary matters, but would not be able to use his position to make decisions without consulting with the board, said board member Mike Skala, who chairs the finance and audit committee.
Franks said he deserved a "seat at the table," citing his track record of saving the county money. He pointed to cuts to the county's tax levy and returning $15 million worth of surplus funding from Valley Hi Nursing Home back to taxpayers.
The new budget policy was created by the county's director of finance, Kevin Bueso, who said the policy was revised five times before it went to the finance committee for a vote.
Since the board chairman was considered part of the board until Franks became the first publicly elected chairman in 2016, Bueso said he revised the county's previous budget policy to include Franks' department.
"This policy is the county board's policy and is all comprehensive; it's got to include everybody's input on that and that's why that was included in there," Bueso said in Wednesday's meeting.
Members of the finance and audit committee later amended the policy, changes that included removing these references to the chairman's department, Vijuk said.
Franks asked Bueso whether he truly thought the resulting budget policy was a comprehensive, inclusive plan, a question that incited objections from several board members. Bueso did not respond.
Skala agreed the policy could be revised to be more inclusive, adding he would encourage staff to bring that recommendation forward. He said he disagreed with Franks' statements that the new policy seeks to cut him out of the budget process.
Skala described the department of the chair as one pillar on a "three-pillar stool," stating Franks should provide independent oversight on the budgets of county departments and other agencies that report to the county. The county board and the county's administration make up the other two pillars of the stool, which should always be equal and balanced, Skala said.
"Collectively, as the three pillars, we have to come together to pass a budget," he said. "What I see as the problem that has happened in the past is when one of those pillars, is independently altering things outside of the purview of the other two pillars and that's where I feel that we have gone astray and we need to correct."
"So I disagree with you chairman, I do feel you are an important part of the process," Skala said. "But I do feel that you are a part of the process, not the process itself."