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Some McHenry County Board members want to shrink size of board

McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks said reducing the size of the County Board is a good idea.
McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks said reducing the size of the County Board is a good idea.

WOODSTOCK – A political flyer circulating McHenry County sporting the names of McHenry County Board members Bob Nowak and Chris Spoerl suggests an effort to shrink the size of the McHenry County Board is picking up steam.

The flyer describes the duo as “Your McHenry County Board Proven Tax Fighting Team” and lists a cluster of political aims.

“Working to Cut the Size of the County Board in Half,” the flyer reads.

Nowak and Spoerl were unavailable to comment on their plans to reduce the size of the 24-member board, but McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks said it’s a good idea.

“We need to reduce the size of the County Board,” Franks said. “Our board is much too big.”

Franks pointed to Cook County, where the Board of Commissioners includes 17 members who serve 5.2 million residents. In DuPage County, 18 members make up the County Board, a body that serves 934,000 people – three times the size of McHenry County, where 24 members make up the County Board.

If the McHenry County Board reduces its number of members to 12, each district would cover about 25,000 people, Franks said.

“That’s much more manageable,” Franks said. 

The County Board in past years has rejected the idea of either downsizing or changing its current makeup of six four-member districts. An advisory referendum to gauge support for cutting the size of the County Board appeared on the ballot of the Nov. 8 election. A binding referendum can’t be asked of voters until after the 2020 U.S. Census, before the redistricting for the 2022 election.

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

Although the County Board in recent years has entertained prodding to shrink its size or adopt one- or two-member districts, most of its members have seen no need to do so. Other counties took advantage of the 2010 U.S. Census to downsize.

The Lake and Kane county boards each shrank by two board members in preparation for the time in which those counties reach 800,000 people and have to shrink to 18 members under state law, as the DuPage County Board did in 2000. Will County shrank its board by one member, but overhauled its boundaries from large nine-member districts to smaller two-member districts.

The McHenry County Board’s size is average compared with the other collar counties. The Kane County Board has 24 members, the Lake County Board has 21 members, and the Will County Board has 26.

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