Salaries and benefits for McHenry County elected officials has been hotly debated by the McHenry County Board for the last month and a final vote on the issue is set for Tuesday.
On Tuesday, board members will vote on a resolution to keep their annual salary at $21,000 and not make changes to the benefits board members can receive.
While an inflation-based raise was discussed last month, much of the debate now centers on whether board members should be able to take benefits.
“This can’t be your job that gives you health care when it’s only five, six times a month that you have to come in,” said board member Theresa Meshes, D-Fox River Grove. “I don’t see how we can justify giving ourselves full-time benefits when we don’t put enough work in.”
Many board members said they shouldn’t be able to receive benefits when the county’s part-time employees are not eligible for the same benefits. County board members are elected and not considered either full-time or part-time employees.
Board member Paula Yensen, D-Lake in the Hills, noted the time requirements of the board, such as the frequent daytime committees, can make it difficult for people to balance careers with the elected office.
“It is a luxury to be able to have a full-time job and still be involved on the County Board and fulfilling the responsibilities and duties,” she said.
Several board members said they should take more time to discuss the issue and figure out the best way to approach benefits for board members going forward, especially because the County Board is asked to consider their salary and benefits only once every ten years.
Unlike board members, countywide elected officials could get a pay increase. The sheriff, clerk, treasurer, coroner, auditor, circuit clerk and County Board chairman may all see raises if the proposed resolution passes.
Some board members are pushing back against it.
“I don’t have a problem with this resolution. The problem I have is that we’re treating elected officials differently,” said board member Carolyn Schofield, R-Crystal Lake.
Schofield pointed out no full-time requirement exists for countywide elected officials either and she wants to be sure they are working for their money.
The board chairman is in line for about a 5% increase and will make $86,300 beginning in December 2025, which is after current board Chairman Mike Buehler’s current term ends. The salary for his position would then increase by no more than 3% in each following year.
“I am the lowest paid countywide elected official, and I’m okay with that,” said Buehler, R-Crystal Lake.
The clerk, treasurer, auditor, coroner and circuit court clerk will all make $114,000 beginning in 2025 under the resolution, with annual raises also not to exceed 3%. This is about a 4% increase for the clerk and treasurer and almost 9% for the auditor, circuit court clerk and coroner.
The sheriff’s position would see the salary increase to $152,000 in December 2022, an increase just under 2%.
Each of the increases would take effect after the seat is up for election.