McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks seeks to kill pensions for elected officials

WOODSTOCK – McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks wants to ax pensions for all countywide elected officials.

On Oct. 17, he will submit a resolution to do so.

“There can be no sacred cows when it comes to getting our nightmarish property taxes under control,” Franks said.

If passed by the County Board, the resolution will remove Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund eligibility for the offices of County Board chairman, state’s attorney, county clerk, circuit clerk, treasurer, auditor, recorder, coroner and sheriff.

A report detailing overall cost savings after cutting pensions is forthcoming, county officials said.

As McHenry County taxpayers shoulder one of the heaviest property tax burdens in the country, Franks said, the resolution is a way to cut costs and save money.

“[They’re] elected to four-year terms, not 20-year careers,” Franks said. “[Ending pensions] would eliminate an incentive to become a career politician.”

County Board member Joe Gottemoller, R-Crystal Lake, said the disparity between what elected county officials pay into the pension system and what they receive after retirement is costly – and problematic.

“My concern is you have a pension that is well beyond the cost of what your contribution is,” Gottemoller said.

Gottemoller said he hopes other Illinois counties submit similar resolutions.

“Why are we giving the rest of these employees golden parachutes?” Gottemoller said.

In June 2016, all 24 members of the McHenry County Board voted to end participation in the IMRF for themselves and those elected after them.

The resolution not only eliminated eligibility for new members on Dec. 1, but also the accumulation of credit for pensions for existing members, including the chairman.

The new resolution will go before the County Board Human Resources Committee at its Oct. 4 meeting.

The McHenry County Board will vote on the resolution Oct. 17.

“I’m changing business as usual,” Franks said. “In this office, I’ve banned the words, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’ I don’t care; you’ve always done it wrong.”

In February 2016, Franks asked the IMRF to open an investigation into whether County Board members were working the required 1,000 hours a year to quality for pensions.

The IMRF could not find evidence to conclude whether County Board members worked enough hours to get pensions.