MORRISON – Cities and counties often cover the dues for their officials to belong to professional associations.
Not Whiteside County.
County Clerk Dana Nelson is a member of the Illinois Association of County Clerks and Recorders. For years, the county has paid her dues to the organization. In return, the group provides training and information so that she can do a better job for taxpayers, she said.
This year, she said, she’ll dig into her own pocket to pay the $265 in annual dues.
To cut the budget, the County Board decided a couple of years ago to stop covering dues for county officials. For instance, the county no longer pays the licensing fees and bar association dues for prosecutors in the state’s attorney’s office, County Administrator Joel Horn said.
State’s Attorney Gary Spencer has disagreed with the policy in committee meetings, but to no avail. He included $5,000 for dues and fees in his proposed budget for the fiscal year starting Dec. 1. But the Public Safety Committee last week removed that line item.
The budgets for Lee County, Sterling and Dixon, on the other hand, include line items for dues in a number of departments.
Horn said he played devil’s advocate at a recent Finance Committee meeting about why the county should pay those dues. But the committee’s consensus was that paying dues was using public funds for private purposes.
Nelson said she didn’t see it that way.
“I wouldn’t be in the association if I weren’t the county clerk,” she said. “I love the people in it, but I wouldn’t pay this much money.”
Sue Britt, chairwoman of the Public Safety Committee, said that while her committee eliminated the dues budget for the state’s attorney, she had mixed feelings.
Some dues for professional associations are associated with county officials’ positions, she said. But that’s not the case with attorneys who belong to the bar association because they would likely stay with the group if they took other types of attorney jobs, she said.
“That’s the way a lot of people saw it,” she said.