PEORIA — Voters in the March primary are likely to be asked whether or not to make the Peoria County auditor an appointed position rather than an elected one.
Members of the board's executive committee on Tuesday unanimously approved sending ballot language for the change to the full board for a Dec. 14 vote.
It's been a subject of debate off and on over the last decade, alongside several other elected, countywide positions, board Chairman Andrew Rand said.
"I'm for letting the people decide how to proceed with this question," he said.
Past elected auditors have not always had professional financial certifications or formal training for the position. Occupants of the post are now only required to be residents of the county.
"It's more about professionalizing the office than savings, though we'll try to save money where we can," county administrator Scott Sorrel said in response to committee questions on the proposal.
Sorrel said that savings aren't necessarily guaranteed, with a full-time, professionally qualified auditor perhaps costing as much as the near-six-figure salary the post is paid under current county statute.
The ballot question the committee approved would give appointed auditors a five-year term — longer than the four-year terms of County Board members — and states the official can be removed only from malfeasance or official misconduct. Those elements are designed to preserve the auditor's independence and remove her or him from the politics of the board.
Board member Allen Mayer was not present at the meeting, but he requested that if the board moves forward with putting the measure on the ballot that members also begin work quickly on crafting the proposed qualifications for the appointed post, so that voters can take that into consideration when casting their ballots.
Longtime board member Phil Salzer suggested that a requirement for residency in the county be built into those qualifications.
If the measure is approved by the County Board and gets support from a majority of voters in the primary, there would be no election in November 2018 for the auditor post. An election is on the books because Carol VanWinkle resigned the post in late 2016 weeks after her new term started. Kent Rotherham, an accountant, was appointed to fill the job until the next scheduled election.
Meanwhile, the committee also approved the final, minor tweaks to the county's budget for the coming year. The final amended budget will be available online at peoriacounty.org for the two weeks leading up to the Dec. 14 vote on its approval.
Chris Kaergard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 686-3255. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard