News - McHenry County

Column: 5 McHenry County Board members on mileage, salary cuts

McHenry County Board member Kelli Wegener delivers her viewpoints Tuesday during a Committee of the Whole meeting to discuss the elimination of mileage reimbursement and health insurance for McHenry County Board members in Woodstock.

The McHenry County Board understands the devastation that many in our community are facing, be it financial insecurity, food insecurity, the physical or mental health of ourselves or a loved one, access to child care, the obligation of being a caretaker to others, or the uncertainty of the future.

During this time of anxiety and uncertainty, many of us on the Board have been working behind the scenes in various capacities to help those who are affected, either directly or indirectly, by the COVID-19 pandemic.

We have done so individually, though as a collective, the impact is significant. As of today, of those reporting, we have collectively spent over 300 hours volunteering and donated more than the 10% of the proposed salary reduction to help local non-profits, agencies, and individuals in the spirit of community service.

The agencies we’ve given to include our local churches, our local food pantries, Senior Care, Senior Volunteer Network, sewing and distributing facemasks, Project Frontline, Turning Point, Second Bridge, MC-Senior TechConnect, Family Health Partnership, and directly helping our neighbors who are ill, first responders, teachers, United Way, and people who are homeless.

We want you to know that we are coming together as a bi-partisan unit to ensure we are doing everything we can to help you today. As you may be aware, there is a resolution to cut all elected county board members and constitutional officers’ salaries by 10%. While this sounds like a good easy solution, please note the following:

A savings of $36,650 annually wouldn’t start until Dec. 1, 2020.

A savings of $87,230 annually wouldn’t start until Dec. 1, 2022.

County Board Member salary cuts (which would only be .05% of this year’s budget) wouldn’t take effect until 2022.

Any discussion of salaries and compensation, whether reductions or increases, must be conducted within the long-standing county committee process, specifically within the finance and administrative services committees.

These issues, like all others, must allow for public scrutiny and input, as well as full research and presentation of relevant information.

We have also looked for ways to make an immediate impact to help our community. The county board members have made the following decisions:

Those members who request mileage reimbursement will no longer submit that expense when we start meeting in person again. This will go into effect immediately throughout the remainder of this year. That has an immediate reductive impact on the budget.

We will continue to review every expense and look for ways to reduce our budget without impacting services.

We will continue to help others, whether it be monetary donations or volunteer hours.

We will continue to work together to provide leadership to our county in a fair and just way.

We want to emphasize that we are not against the resolution proposing salary reductions. We are against knee-jerk actions without appropriate input and public discussion. We are for immediate county action both individually and collectively which helps our constituents get back to work and back to some kind of normal in a safe fashion.

We also want to take this time to acknowledge the incredibly talented and hard working staff of McHenry County. Because of the consistent excellent work throughout the years, McHenry County is in better shape than most other counties and this work ethic will continue.

Finally, we want to thank the citizens of McHenry County for entrusting us, and for looking out for one another. There have been countless examples of the generous and hardy spirit McHenry County is known for and we know that we will get through this crisis together because it’s who we are.

If you have any questions, you can find our names and contact information on the County Board Member web page. Thank you for your support.

• County Board members Kelli Wegener, Suzanne Ness, Lori Parrish, Pamela Althoff and Carolyn Schofield.