McHenry County Board to tackle recorder referendum, conservation district budget

By KEVIN P. CRAVER - kcraver@shawmedia.com Published: Saturday, June 17, 2017 11:53 p.m. CDT • Updated: Sunday, June 18, 2017 12:09 a.m. CDT
H. Rick Bamman – hbamman@shawmedia.com McHenry County Recorder Joe Tirio and McHenry County Clerk Mary McClellan take questions from members of the County Board's Ad Hoc Committee on Government Consolidation during a discussion June 9 of a proposed referendum on the March ballot. The committee voted to move the referendum forward, and the full County Board will take a vote on whether to include the referendum Tuesday.

WOODSTOCK – Abolishing the office of county recorder, approving the 2018 budget for the McHenry County Conservation District and signing off on state prevailing wage rates are among the matters that the McHenry County Board will take a vote on Tuesday.

Board members near the end of their monthly voting meeting will decide whether to put a binding referendum on the March 2018 primary ballot asking voters whether they want to abolish the elected position of recorder and consolidate its functions with the county clerk, as is done in most Illinois counties.

Should voters approve the idea, the office would cease to exist in 2020. Republican Recorder Joe Tirio ran last year on a platform of eliminating the office – County Clerk Mary McClellan and County Board Chairman Jack Franks, D-Marengo, support the idea.

Although the measure is expected to pass Tuesday, some County Board members have indicated that they would rather see the referendum on the November 2018 midterm election ballot.

Board members also are set to vote on the 2018 budget for the McHenry County Conservation District. The budget asks for $8.9 million, which is an increase of less than 1 percent over the previous budget.

Although this budget is expected to pass as well, there likely will be some protest votes as there have been in previous years over the existence or size of the conservation district’s police department. Some board members have said that the force should be trimmed or eliminated as a cost-cutting measure. Three of the five County Board members who voted against the conservation district’s budget last year have since left office.

For the fourth straight year, County Board members might cast a symbolic vote to reject the prevailing wage rates set by the Illinois Department of Labor. Local governments are required by state law to pay the wages for any project financed by public funds.

State law requires local governments each year to adopt the wage schedule. But although voting against the schedule carries no penalty, it is illegal for governments to willingly pay less than prevailing wage – officials can face fines and the government itself can be subject to fines, which would be paid by its taxpayers.

County Board members who oppose the wage allege that it is far above what is paid in the free market and needlessly inflates the cost of projects. Organized labor and other supporters have said that prevailing wage allows workers to make living wages in a county with a high cost of living, and prevents governments from shipping in cheap, unskilled and exploitable labor.

The County Board is not the only local government that has symbolically turned down prevailing wage. McHenry Township rejected it, and the Lakewood Village Board last week refused to even bring it to a vote – both governments experienced significant turnover in the April consolidated election.

Tuesday’s meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at the county Administration Building, 667 Ware Road, Woodstock.