Kendall County Board members will receive annual salaries starting in 2020, after the board voted Tuesday, May 15, to do away with the per diem method of payment.
Currently, board members get paid $95 per diem, or per day, for every day they attend a meeting.
Beginning Dec. 1, 2020, all county board members will be paid an annual salary of $17,500. The following year, the salary will be increased to $17,763, according to the resolution approved by the board. The board chairman also will receive a $350 monthly stipend in addition to the salary, according to the resolution.
The board voted 6-2 in favor of the changes, with board Chairman Scott Gryder and board members Lynn Cullick, John Purcell, Matthew Prochaska, Matt Kellogg and Audra Hendrix voting to approve the changes and board member Robert “H.D.” Davidson voting against them. Board member Judy Gilmour voted to abstain.
Board members Tony Giles and Elizabeth Flowers were absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
The board will still be eligible for health insurance benefits and must pay at least 10 percent of the premium or the equivalent of a full-time employee, according to County Treasurer Jill Ferko.
“They are eligible for health insurance and the county pays the same premium as they would for full-time employees,” Ferko said. “The employee pays 10 percent of the premium for single and county picks up the rest. There is a formula for family coverage based on the amount paid for the single premium.”
However, mileage reimbursements to board members for meetings inside the county will be eliminated, according to the resolution.
The per diem pay issue has been rife with controversy in the past, as 11 board members who served between 2008 and 2012 were the subject of a forensic audit regarding per diem and mileage reimbursement pay that had been claimed incorrectly. A final settlement agreement was approved by the board in May of 2015, and the accused board members paid $6,412 in total, lower than the $45,997 that the audit stated the members owed the county.
A per diem ad-hoc committee was formed in 2013, led by former board member Amy Cesich and including Gryder, Gilmour, Cullick and Prochaska, who then were all new board members not named in the per diem audit controversy.
The board voted down a proposed change to a $12,000 annual salary in May of 2014 and a $15,000 salary in June of 2016.
After Tuesday’s meeting, Gryder said the change was a long time coming.
“I know sometimes we have short memories, but when we think back to the per diem investigation, there were a number of board members who were a part of that,” he said. “A lot of people felt they hadn’t done anything wrong, and to change this was to somehow acknowledge that they had. I don’t believe that’s the case. It’s just fixing a system that no longer fit Kendall County.”
Gryder said the proposal came out of the board’s finance committee.
“It’s something we’ve all talked about, it’s something that’s been in the back of our minds the last couple of years,” he said. “I’m just pleased for the residents of Kendall County that that’s a bygone era. They don’t have to worry about investigations again. We’re headed in the right direction.“
Gryder said both Kendall County State’s Attorney Eric Weis and Treasurer Jill Ferko were in favor of getting rid of the per diem system.
“The state’s attorney had recommended previously that we get rid of per diems, because that’s the only way we could truly clean this up,” Gryder said. “The treasurer had said get rid of per diems because it’s much better for our accounting purposes.”
Asked about the amount of salary, Gryder said the finance committee compared similar-sized counties and looked at the Kendall board members’ pay over the years. He said with per diem payments that include meetings outside of the regular board meetings, board members could have netted $18,000 to $19,000 per year.
Gryder said he’s “never been in favor of health insurance for board members.”
“That may be a battle for another day; that remains out there,” he said. “I don’t take the IMRF. That’s something else we should look at someday. But right now I’m thrilled to have this victory behind us.”
Gryder also noted the elimination of the mileage reimbursements for in-county meetings.
“You shouldn’t get mileage for doing your job,” he said.
Cesich said she was glad to see the change she had wanted to make years ago come to fruition.
“I think everybody knows that it was an antiquated system,” she said. “Even back then, we had all the data from other counties. We had stacks and stacks of data saying this was the way to go and the better way to do it.”
Cesich acknowledged there are “pros and cons, and pluses and minuses, and you work out the kinks as you go.”
“But I’m finally glad they did it, even though it took so long,” she said.
Davidson said during a discussion at the meeting that he was concerned about board members who miss meetings and still get paid.
“I don’t know what’s good, right, or bad, but I have a real problem paying for somebody who don’t show up for their duties here as a board member,” he said.