Kane County panel suggests raises for only some leaders while health insurance perk questioned
Kane County Board members may get their first raises in more than a decade, but they could also lose their health insurance benefits in the process.
State law requires the county board to examine the salaries of its elected officials every 10 years, after the redrawing of county board districts. That's also the only time all 24 county board seats go onto the ballot at the same time, making any raises the county board might give itself or its fellow county elected officials even more politically perilous.
That's part of why the 2010 county board passed on any raises. Now it's been more than a decade since county officials received a pay hike. And some officials are pushing for pay that would allow people of all economic backgrounds to run for office.
"There are folks who would love to run for office but just don't have the means to devote the time," said county board member Monica Silva. "As a single mom, I probably would not have been able to run for office if there was not a salary."
Board members receive an annual salary of $25,000.
Silva's comments came as a compensation review committee composed of residents appointed by county board Chair Corinne Pierog recommended only some raises Wednesday: 5% raises for the county clerk, sheriff and treasurer, and 2% raises each year on an ongoing basis. All three of those offices are up for election this year.
That's key, because state law forbids county officials from receiving pay raises within the current term of office. Raises for the clerk, sheriff, treasurer or county board can't take effect until December. Raises for other offices, like the coroner, recorder or auditor, couldn't take effect until after the next time those positions are on the ballot, in 2024.
The salary county board members receive, and the benefits, are frequent targets by challengers during election season. The salaries alone come to a $600,000 budget expense each year.
The compensation committee did not recommend raises for the county board. In fact, Sue Klinkhamer, the former St. Charles mayor who led the compensation committee, told county board members they should surrender the health insurance coverage members receive.
"The $25,000 is more than most mayors make in Kane County," Klinkhamer said. "It's not a full-time job. With the health insurance, if you have a county that doesn't give your part-time employees health insurance, it's hard to justify. The benefits can be worth more than the salary. That's something you need to look into."
It wasn't that long ago that county board members did just that.
Board member Mo Iqbal called the insurance perk "corruption" during his first election campaign and pushed forward a plan for county board members to pay the full cost of the benefit to stay on the county's insurance plan in 2019.
Board members are the only part-time employees in the county who receive full health insurance coverage. Taxpayers cover 83% of the premium costs.
At the time of Iqbal's push, 17 of the 24 county board members were on the county's insurance plan at a taxpayer cost of $240,000. The board shunned Iqbal's efforts to change the policy.
A vote on removing the health insurance benefit may stand a better chance now. Only 12 of the 24 current board members accept the health insurance benefit. One additional member uses only the dental portion of the plan.
On Wednesday, fellow board member Jim Martin supported Iqbal's idea of having board members pay into the insurance coverage.
A committee of county board members will now take on a deeper examination of possible raises and changes to benefits. Neither Iqbal nor Martin is on the committee.