The essence of the Tuesday night meeting came down to the biggest question of a debate that’s been brewing across the county for months.
“What’s the magic number?” McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks asked, speaking in front of the county’s consolidation committee.
To Franks, the board should be cut in half to 12 members.
“I want to point out that even if we cut our size by half, the County Board will still be larger than the elected bodies of every municipality, every school board, every township, every special service district in the county,” Franks said. “The fact of the matter is that the job that the County Board does in the 21st century does not require 24 members.”
McHenry County Board member Mary McCann said reducing each district to two members would make it difficult for representatives like her who lead a district encompassing 75 percent of unincorporated residents.
“Reducing it to two people does not serve us well,” McCann said.
Franks is pushing the reduction of the County Board’s size after the 2020 U.S. census. After each decennial U.S. census, county boards get an opportunity to adjust their size.
The McHenry County Board has remained at 24 members since 1972. It is the only collar county board to remain the same size since voters first were empowered to directly elect members.
In 2016, 77 percent of voters supported an advisory referendum asking whether the McHenry County Board’s size should be reduced.
The Ad Hoc Committee recently heard testimony on abolishing the McHenry County Recorder’s Office and recommended that it be put to the voters in a binding referendum. Voters in the March primary approved the idea.
McHenry County Board District 3 representative Chris Christensen said the size of the County Board is an “easy fix.”
“You just go down to 18 board members,” he said. “You take one away from each, and it’s a very simple move and you keep evolving the next one.”
Near the end of the meeting, Franks said the committee would reconvene in the coming weeks to vote on a resolution to reduce the board to 18 members.