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McHenry County Board to consider proposal increasing number of districts as membership shrinks

A committee tasked with determining the make-up of the McHenry County Board as its membership shrinks agreed on a plan Wednesday morning that would mean more districts with fewer members assigned to each.

The consensus comes as counties across Illinois redraw their district lines in the wake of the U.S. census. Counties have until July to submit their redrawn maps, although the detailed results of the 2020 U.S. census have been delayed, in large part because of the COVID-19 pandemic, until sometime in September.

Under the plan approved in an 8-0 vote Wednesday, an ordinance is headed to the County Board that would divide the county into nine districts with two County Board members representing each district. Currently, County Board representation is split among six districts with four board members per district.

Several County Board members said they are supportive of the proposed reduction, which was backed by about three-quarters of voters in a non-binding referendum in 2016. The County Board then voted itself in 2018 to reduce its membership to 18 from 24.

The County Board’s size had stayed the same since 1972, when voters began directly electing its members after the new state constitution ended the practice of county boards composed of township supervisors.

County Board member Carlos Acosta said the proposed county board district maps he’s seen address some of the concerns he’s had, in particular keeping towns mostly within the same county board district.

“Most of the major municipalities are not split up very much, and in the nine-district map, most municipalities are actually full,” Acosta said.

Some balked at how the County Board could be reconfigured.

“Maybe we were too hasty going to the 18 members, but it is the resolution, the referendum that had passed, which was a non-binding referendum to go to 18,” board member Jim Kearns said.

Acosta said he originally liked the idea of dividing the county into 18 single-member districts, although he added the idea may not draw enough support.

The committee also discussed the pay of County Board members and countywide positions like sheriff or state’s attorney.

The county researched how officials are compensated compared to neighboring counties with an eye toward potentially leveling the playing field, officials said. A decision on pay could be made later this year.

Would-be candidates begin circulating petition papers and collecting signatures around September in a run-up to the 2022 election, and so the committee members agreed to give themselves until then to make a decision.


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