Will County Board Moves Ahead with New District Map, Rejects Salary Increases

Redistricting Plan
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The Will County Board moved ahead with a new district map on Tuesday, a decision that one board member described as the most important action officials will take the next 10 years.

About the Board’s Decision

Under the redistricting plan, county board representation will be divvied up by 11 districts with two board members for every district. The new model eliminates four seats from the current 13-district map.

The board’s decision did not come without some opposition.

County Board Opposition

Board Member Jim Moustis, R-Frankfort, joined a chorus of county board Republicans suggesting that officials reject an 11-district plan, saying that residents of eastern Will County, which includes his hometown Frankfort, would see weaker representation.

He, along with other Republicans, lodged accusations about gerrymandering.

County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant has disagreed, saying something has to give.

“From the beginning, I outlined my principles for redistricting-reduce the size of the board, keep communities of interests together and keep municipalities intact to the best of our abilities, all while working within population deviations,” Bertino-Tarrant said in a statement. “The boundaries were drawn based on those principles and, in turn, reduced two members of the current board from both parties for a total of four seats.”

The county board did give consideration to a 13-district proposal, but it failed to drum up support in a 12-14 vote.

When a separate motion was put on the table to give consideration to an 11-district map that officials offered as a compromise, it failed to gain support in a 12-14 vote. Some officials called the process into question after the county board decided not to move forward with it.

The Process

“It was just a ruse to put whatever map this is now forward that we’ve had three days to look at, that the public really hasn’t had a chance to see unless they went on the agenda for this meeting,” Board Member Mike Fricilone (R-Homer Glen) said.

Board Member Frankie Pretzel, R-New Lenox, also took issue with the redistricting process.

“This arguably is the most important thing we’ll vote on for the next decade,” Frankie Pretzel said. “You can ram anything you want through. You have the votes.”

Board Speaker Mimi Cowan, D-Naperville, emphasized that it was “too little, too late” to negotiate.

The board is required to redraw its boundary lines every 10 years to account for population changes noted in U.S. Census data.

The final map was approved by a vote of 14-12.

Board Member Salaries

Also at the meeting, the board decided that increases to board member salaries would not move forward.

The issue became contentious for the county board with some officials saying it doesn’t lend itself to lesser government if fewer members are paid more.

One proposal floated by the board would have increased member salaries to $30,000 per year.

Under the new redistricting plan, board member salaries will remain constant at $23,000 per year.

All 22 board seats will be up for grabs next election.

Naperville News 17’s Megann Horstead reports.

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