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Champaign County Board Members Discuss Compensation Issue

Champaign County Board members haven't had a raise in more than 20 years.

And based on a straw poll conducted Tuesday night, a majority of them don't want to change the method they're paid, earning a specific per diem per meeting plus mileage, rather than an annual salary. But the amount of that per diem has yet to be set. It's currently $45, an amount some call woefully short. Urbana Democrat Tom Betz said it's kept some people from serving.

"It costs them more in the evening to pay the babysitter than they're getting in the per diem," he said. "It has really happened. I know one very good board member we lost because of that. No entity goes 25 years without any salary increase. It's really kind of ludicrous."

Champaign Democrat Michael Richards agrees, saying his party has trouble recruiting candidates with the current level of compensation, but Mahomet Republican John Jay said a raise can't be justified after the sacrifices county employees have made.

"So I'm hoping that we don't raise it at this time..," he said. "..In due respect to our employees, and to the taxpayers of this county, until we get our county back into some kind of reasonable fiscal shape."

Urbana Republican Steve Moser said money was never an incentive for him to serve on the county board, saying it's no different from serving on a school board.

County Administrator Deb Busey suggests the board set compensation rates every 10 years, and prior to a change in county board structure. It's expected to have 22 members instead of the current 27 after the 2012 elections. Voters recommended the change in an advisory referendum last fall.

The rates for board members don't have to be set until about six months before a new county board is sworn in, but county board chair Pius Wiebel said he'd hope to do it much sooner.

In another straw poll, the County Board also rejected a suggestion that the title of county board chair become an elected member of the county rather than one chosen by county board members.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics