GENEVA – A resolution to ask voters if they want to reduce the size of the Kane County Board to 18 from 24 to save money was tabled this week at the Executive Committee by a 9-3 vote.
The vote to table it means it will not be on the agenda for the full County Board at its next meeting Tuesday. The deadline to submit the question for the Nov. 3 ballot is Aug. 27, officials said, so it cannot be added to the ballot as an advisory question.
Board member Mohammad “Mo” Iqbal, D-Elgin, advocated for the referendum, which he said would save Kane County $300,000 in board salaries and benefits with six fewer members.
The measure had failed at the Legislative Committee last month in a 4-3 vote, but Iqbal said he wanted to continue discussing it at the Executive Committee meeting.
“The question I need to ask my bosses – the voters – what should we do the next time the board meets next year after the election?” Iqbal said.
“It’s a complex issue,” Iqbal said. “So we ask ourselves and we let people judge what we are doing. Can we do better? Can we save something? Can we do with (a) lesser amount? Can we save something for them?”
Iqbal said even though the question is not binding, it would bring about more openness and educate the public about what the County Board does.
“There are folks on this board who would not like for this to be asked. And I understand that,” Iqbal said. “But it is important that we ask. It should be discussed.”
How Kane compares
At the Legislative Committee meeting July 22, Iqbal provided a chart that compared Kane County’s 24 members to other counties with more population than Kane’s 531,000 and fewer board members.
For example, DuPage County, with 934,000 population has 18 members; Lake County with 704,000 population has 20members.
Will County with 693,000 people has 25 board members, one more than Kane.
Iqbal did not include McHenry County in his chart, which also has 24 board members with a population of 307,000.
DuPage also pays its board members more, $52,000 compared to Kane’s salary of $25,000, but its board members serve an average of 51,889 population compared with Kane’s 22,125, according to Iqbal.
Iqbal’s calculations showed that Kane has the highest per 10,000 people, $23,279, when including insurance benefits.
According to state law, when a county's population grows to 750,000 people, the number of board members is reduced to a maximum of 18, Iqbal said.
If the County Board's size were to be reduced, it would coincide during the time of redrawing the county’s districts at the end of this year when new census information is available, Iqbal said.
“Hopefully, we can consolidate the board and cut costs,” Iqbal had said at the Legislative Committee meeting. “We simply want to ask the voters what they think.”
Less representation, more work
Board member Matt Hanson, D-Aurora, co-chairman of the Legislative Committee, said he opposed the resolution.
“I’ll never flippantly vote for less representation,” Hanson said.
“We are a very diverse county. We have a lot of responsibility on this board and our respective committee assignments. And there’s frankly a lot of work to do,” Hanson said. “Mo’s been on the record before, kind of describing our responsibilities as a part-time job. By reducing the board – to any number, whether it be 18 or 20 or 22 – you are automatically increasing the workload for any board member, any commissioners there.”
Hanson also said board members have a secondary role as Forest Preserve Commissioners, whose work is not reflected in Iqbal’s calculations.
“The … grid of numbers Mo put out here – they’re inaccurate,” Hanson said. “In the DuPage County category, there is no reflection of the compensation for seven commissioners on the Forest Preserve Board. … That quickly jumps to $19,068 per capita per 10,000 people.”
Hanson said because nine Kane County Board members do not accept insurance, it reduces the per capita cost to $18,091.
“My numbers may be off, but there should be a debate,” Iqbal said.
Board member Barbara Hernandez, D-Aurora, said she echoed Hanson’s comments.
“Also, I think it is difficult to put something out there on a referendum like this where – in general – people don’t really now what we do,” Hernandez said. “And speaking from experience, my district was combined so I had basically two districts in one. … You go door-to-door and people don’t know what we do.”
Hernandez said even with radio interviews and information provided online, it’s not enough to educate people on what the county board does.
The Legislative Committee members voting no were Hernandez, Hanson, Anita Lewis, D-Aurora and Clifford Surges, R-Gilberts. Iqbal, Steve Weber, R-St. Charles and Jarett Sanchez, D-Carpentersville voted yes.
The Executive Committee members voting to table the issue were Surges, Hanson, Deborah Allen, D-Elgin, Drew Frasz, R-Elburn, John Hoscheit, R-St. Charles, Michael Kenyon, R-South Elgin, William Lenert, R-Sugar Grove, John Martin, R-Geneva and Barbara Wojnicki, R-Campton Hills.
Voting against tabling the issue were Iqbal, Sanchez and Weber.