SYCAMORE – A DeKalb County Board member is pushing for change in light of four of the 12 Finance Committee meetings being canceled or rescheduled this year, while the committee chairman is defending his actions as financially prudent.
Anthony Cvek, a Sycamore Republican, wants to require a two-thirds vote for committee members to cancel standing committee meetings, which is how county board meetings are canceled. He also wants the committee chairman’s pay for months without meetings eliminated.
Cvek said Finance Committee Chairman Stephen Reid, a DeKalb Democrat, has canceled committee meetings because he doesn’t feel there are agenda items worth discussing. The county finance committee, which is supposed to convene monthly, did not meet three times this year, but the December meeting was rescheduled for an hour before the county board meeting Wednesday.
“To allow the work of this committee to be held hostage on account of one individual’s ideological differences simply cannot continue,” Cvek wrote in a news release issued this week.
Cvek also said Reid accepts solutions proposed by county staff rather than pursuing other options.
Reid said he tends to trust county staff and department heads because they are professionals in county issues. He also said meetings are not held when there are no agenda items; not holding them can save money since board members are paid $85 per meeting. The committee chairman is paid $110 per month.
The county has eight standing committees, for which a total of 16 meetings did not happen. The Planning and Zoning Committee missed the most meetings at four while the Health and Human Services Committee missed none.
While Reid said he wasn’t sure why the Finance Committee meetings in April and July did not happen; the committee typically chooses to cancel its January meeting, he said.
Reid said the Finance Committee meeting scheduled for December was rescheduled because five of the seven members were unable to attend for personal reasons.
“That’s certainly not something arbitrary that I had anything to do with,” Reid said.
Both board members are seeking re-election next year. Cvek is running against Laurie Emmer for the District 4 seat in the Republican primary, while Reid is running unopposed for a District 5 seat.
Cvek’s proposals come after several board members discussed wanting to examine and possibly tweak the budget appeal and approval process. During the Nov. 20 board meeting, when they approved the budget for the fiscal year that starts Jan. 1, about five of the 24 county board members said they were not satisfied with the budget appeal process.
At the time, Cvek, along with board member Charles Foster, R-Shabbona, wanted to table the vote on the budget and property tax levy for study at the next finance committee meeting. Other members, such as Tracy Jones, R-Kirkland, wanted to understand aspects of the budget better.
One of Cvek’s proposals is suspending pay for chairmen during the months their committee meetings are canceled. Committee chairman are paid even during the months without meetings because of the additional duties they have outside of them, said Jeff Metzger, board chairman.
“They spend a lot of time planning a meeting,” he said.
Reid said one of his tasks as committee chairman includes researching issues board members plan to discuss. The monthly payment was something discussed and approved by board members before, Metzger said.
But for Cvek, ending the practice seems like a “no-brainer.”
“When you don’t show up for work, you don’t get paid,” he wrote in the news release. “It’s really that simple.”
At Tuesday’s executive committee meeting, board members agreed to attempt another Finance Committee meeting before the next county board meeting. Foster, who is vice chairman of the Finance Committee, said one of the primary purposes of the meeting was to advance the conversation on the budget process.
“This just allows us the opportunity to get together, lay some groundwork so we can meet again in February and hit the ground running,” Foster said.