County Board to Downsize?

Since 1970, the Winnebago County Board has been made up of 28 members, two from each of the county's 14 districts. But some board members say county government can be run just as well, if not better, with fewer members.

Board members say that the issue of a shrinking board has been brought up at least once every 10 years. But with county governments strapped for cash these days, conversations about such a reduction may be taking on a more serious tone this time around.

In what amounted to be an idea swapping session, an ad-hoc committee made up of five board members met Wednesday night to begin mapping out a timeline to examine the feasibility and the legality of reducing the number of board members in half, from 28 to 14.

Such a reduction would save the county more than $100,000 annually, while opponents argue that the plan would be a disservice to taxpayers, mainly those in rural areas.

Another meeting of the committee will take place at a date to be determined. One thing that is clear, if the reduction proposal is eventually passed, an actual change is still years away. The law prohibits any action from being taken until the next Census is complete, which will be in 2012.

Will the public have a say in the matter? There appears to be a pretty good chance of that happening. Pete MacKay, who sits both on the board and the special committee, is adamant that there be at least four public hearings throughout the entire county.

And there's also a chance that this issue won't even be decided by the board, but instead by we, the voters. Board members tell me there's a chance that the plan could end up on a ballot sometime down the road in the form of a referendum.