Friday, April 17, 2009
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County looks at cutting health insurance for board members

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[April 17, 2009]  A proposed resolution and a comment from a citizen launched lengthy discussion at the Thursday evening Logan County Board meeting. At present, county board members receive compensation and mileage for attending meetings, and they have the option to participate in the county's health insurance plan.

Insurance and legislation chairman Jan Schumacher read a proposed resolution that said health insurance would not be an option for future county board members. The board members taking office once the resolution is passed would continue to be paid per diem (meeting pay) and mileage for the meetings they attend.

A citizen, Andy Anderson, asked to speak. He commended Schumacher for bringing the resolution forward. He said that he did not feel taxpayer money should be spent paying county board members' health insurance. Calling it "greedy" to take the insurance during hard times, he suggested that those who are currently exercising the option "opt out" of it.

Pat O'Neill, vice chairman of the board, responded that this is a benefit that has been available to every board member for the past 30 years and that there have been hard times and it has not been called to question. He felt that it should not reflect negatively on any past or present member who has opted to take the insurance.

He defended the work that board members do as sacrificial for the pay that they do get, saying that board members spend many hours in hard work that is not seen, including a lot of telephone calls, research and hours that cut into personal family time.

Terry Carlton, county board chairman, offered his opinion, saying, "There's nothing wrong for any current board member to take insurance."

In considering whether to enact the resolution, there were a number of questions and comments on the timing and the legal aspects of changing board members' compensation. The committee has involved Michael McIntosh, Logan County state's attorney, to help steer this process. Everyone recognized and agreed that Illinois law stipulates that compensation and benefits for elected officials cannot be changed during an official's term.

Currently, the board representation is by district. The county has six districts with two representatives for each district. One seat is currently open in District 6. The four-year board terms are staggered so that the term of one representative in each district expires every two years.

The board is set up so that every 10 years all board terms expire and all seats start new terms. The next time this happens is three years from now, in 2012.

Along with this, in the next election voters will decide whether the board representation will be at large or by district. As finance chairman, Chuck Ruben favored making the compensation change then. Otherwise, in pay it creates a "staggered board," he said. Half the board members would have different pay and benefit compensation than the other half.

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It was also noted that meeting pay has not been increased since 1972, when it was set at $35 per diem.

Board member Gloria Luster wished to clarify. "We do not get $35 per meeting," she said. "There may be four meetings in one night and we get paid for one."

When Dick Logan was board chairman, he reorganized the committees to have the same members on committees that met on the same night. This saved the county on travel costs and meeting pay. It saved the board members the time of running out on many different nights for meetings. Committees are organized mostly the same under the current chairman.

Terry Werth pointed out that board members spend a lot of time working on county matters outside of meetings. As just one example, he recalled when the John Logan building was purchased and remodeled. Because he was buildings and grounds chairman at the time, he spent 80 hours in that one month in the building, working with contractors, making sure things went right, "and I didn't complain," he said.

Ruben said that if you took the $35 per meeting that was started in 1970 and applied CPI for all those years, it would now be a $175 per diem. You won't find that today, unless you get up around Chicago. He has asked Sally Litterly, the county clerk, to do some new checking to see what similar counties are providing in pay and benefits. Some do provide insurance.

Carlton told board members he would like to recommend Michael Simonson for the open District 6 seat. He was open to delaying this until the insurance issue was decided.

A straw vote indicated that six members were for passing the resolution, four were not, and one was undecided.


From Wikipedia: Per diem is Latin for "per day" or "for each day." It usually refers to the daily rate of any kind of payment. It may also refer to a specific amount of money that an organization allows an individual to spend per day, to cover living and traveling expenses in connection with work. It is the allowance given to the employee/worker for completing a task or going on tour away from home.

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