Eric Bergman wasn't impressed this week when the DuPage County Forest Preserve commissioner he hopes to replace touted the district's AAA bond rating.
After all, Bergman said, it's more important how the forest preserve spends its money.
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"The waste of taxpayer money is easily hidden in a very wealthy organization," said Bergman, a Glen Ellyn Democrat. "I think there needs to be considerably more scrutiny."
The remark prompted his opponent, District 4 incumbent Michael Formento, to defend the board's spending practices during a Daily Herald endorsement interview.
"The dollars expended are very carefully monitored and (information about spending) is public and available," said Formento, a Glen Ellyn Republican. "So I'm not quite sure what we're hiding."
Formento said Bergman was "grossly mistaken when he claimed commissioners have blindly approved changes to agreements with district vendors. Bergman argued that board members aren't asking the "tough questions to save taxpayers money."
Both candidates continue to disagree when it comes to a 5.25 percent increase of the district's 2010-2011 budget.
Bergman said the district is seeking more money from the taxpayers "when most governments are desperately trying to cut back."
Formento said the spending plan includes $18 million in grant money the district expects to receive. If you factor out the grants, he said, the budget increase is less than 1 percent.
And when it comes to the levy, the portion of the district's budget paid with property taxes, the cost for taxpayers has only slightly increased.
"I'd like you to ask the people if they believe that the dollars they're paying to the forest preserve are well spent," Formento said. "I think the answer would be 'yes'."
Bergman said he agrees some of the money is very well spent. "If you look at the forest preserves they are beautiful and very well used," he said.
But when the residents he has spoken to learn commissioners are paid about $56,000 a year, Bergman said they are "amazed."
"I will make more money as a forest preserve commissioner than I do as a full-time nurse," said Bergman, who is a registered nurse and flight attendant.
"There are plenty of areas where, if you asked the citizens about specific spending decisions, there are places to cut back," he added.
Formento, who opposed a recent pay increase, said commissioners take their fiscal responsibility seriously.
"We could not be doing a better job at expanding our programs than we are doing right at the moment," he said, "all within a budget that is reasonable and sound."
District 4 includes all or parts of Wheaton, Winfield, Carol Stream, Glen Ellyn, Glendale Heights and Lombard.