Incumbent Republican Catherine Hurlbut of Elgin is competing against independent Victor LaPorte and Democrat Jim Shales of Elgin to keep her District 19 seat on the Kane County Board. The candidates answered the following questions:
Q: What is your No. 1 campaign issue?
Hurlbut: Maintaining fiscal responsibility. I have always been a fiscal conservative on the Kane County Board. The County Board departments are run within budget every year. The difficulty is with maintaining that same conservatism among some of our elected officials. There currently is a disconnect between state and federal laws regarding internal control to be exercised by some office holders, prohibitions on overspending budgeted income and labor laws requiring the county to pay employees of elected officials after the official has overspent their budget. I am awaiting this opinion. Until then I continue to be vocal with elected officials who chronically overspend their budgeted income.
LaPorte: Lower government spending
Shales: Job creation.
Will work to attract and retain employers throughout the county.
Has over 30 years experience working with labor and businesses.
Q: What is your No. 2 campaign issue?
Hurlbut: Smaller government. It is time for the Kane County Board and elected officials to further review each of their administrative functions and determine if they are functions county government should be providing and at what level these functions need to be provided. I continue to push elected officials to make cuts in their budgets based on today's mandates. I will continue to challenge staff and elected officials to do better with less. In addition, I want to work with the board to review a reduction in the number of county board members. As the county grows within the municipalities it changes the role of county government and requires a review the need for 26 board member.
LaPorte: Lower taxes
Shales: Government accountability
Will help stop wasteful spending by the county board.
Ask the tough questions and weigh all options before making tough decisions.
Will bring fiscal responsibility back to the board.
Q: What is your No. 3 campaign issue?
Hurlbut: Open space. I continue to be a strong advocate for open space. The current market allows the Forest Preserve District to purchase and preserve land at favorable prices. I will continue to identify and work at negotiating the purchase of prime open lands, bike trails and riverfront within Kane County.
LaPorte: Creating a tax and regulatory climate that would be favorable to business and employment growth in Kane County.
Shales: Protect Kane County's natural Resources
Against drilling/mining on Kane County Forrest Preserve property.
Believes in protecting open space and forested areas.
Jim is a current conservation officer and park ranger.
Q: What is your view of the use of red light cameras? Should Kane County continue to issue permits for them? If so, what should be the qualifying criteria?
Hurlbut: I am not a proponent of red-light camera's for the sake of revenue generation. We do have a number of intersections on our county highways that have high left turn accident rates that would benefit from photo (red light) enforcement. However, the companies that provide these cameras are not interested in these intersections unless there is a high volume of right-hand turn violators.
LaPorte: Red light cameras are a predatory method of revenue generation and have not been proven to add to public safety.
Shales: I'm currently against the use of red light cameras. At this point of time, they seem to be used more as money generator than for public safety. For example, look at the camera that were installed at Woodfield Shopping Center for the right turn lane that later had to be removed because visitors had complained and many said they wouldn't shop there anymore. So the village of Schaumburg quickly removed the camera.
At this point, I feel Kane County should listen to its residents and suspend the program.
Q: How should video gambling revenue be utilized in Kane County?
Hurlbut: I believe the revenue from video gambling will be minimal. That being said, I would not include net revenue from video gambling as a general fund revenue, but consider it as a special revenue to be used for gambling addiction services and citizen assistance.
LaPorte: Video gambling money should be utilized by the general revenue fund.
Shales: Revenue that we get from video gaming should be reinvested in the county to create more jobs. Right now Kane County is ranked very high in the unemployment and home foreclosures categories. By investing in our local businesses, trying to attract new businesses to Kane or funding construction project will help stimulate our local economy.
Q: What is the appropriate level of service the Kane County Health Department should provide? Was downsizing the department the right move?
Hurlbut: The downsizing of the health department was a difficult decision for all of us. In today's economy, no one is in favor of cutting jobs. I spent a great deal of time looking at the Federally Qualified Health Care (FQHCs) to see what jobs currently and in the future would be available. The board obtained agreement with these FQHCs that county employees would be given priority to fill these positions.
This assurance made my decision. The second issue had to do with the FQHCs ability to take good care of all of the citizens that were using health department services. These are all great agencies and as they have stronger funding sources including federal government funding. Finally, I do not believe it is in the best interest of the Kane County taxpayers to be funding programs that they are not required to fund through county tax dollars, as we all currently pay taxes to the state and federal government to provide these services. It is time for less government.
LaPorte: Kane County should maintain core services as required by law. Getting sucked in by state of Illinois for matching funds for services is foolish. The state of Illinois is delinquent in meeting all it's financial obligations. Downsizing was proper and necessary.
Shales: There is an old saying "If it ain't broke don't fix it." I'm still confused on why the downsizing had to happen now and why it had to happen as fast as it did. The state does have it financial difficulties as we all know but it just seems the state was the convenient scapegoat so that individuals could shape the department how they wanted to.
It was clear that the county could apply for continuous expedite payments from the state, but choose not to for whatever reason. The director of the health department said he "assumed" they didn't qualify but he never picked up the phone to check whether they did or didn't. Even a board member at that same meeting pointed out the health department did qualify for continuous expedited payments by reading the requirements to him, but they still chose to downsize. These programs were well received by the residents of Kane County and well maintained by those who worked in the health department there was no reason to cut them.
Instead of finding a way to fund the programs in order to continue them they just passed it on to three organizations to manage. While I know these organizations have people's interests at heart, they are already running at capacity and it makes me wonder if the quality of care will be the same as it was when run by Kane County.
I think downsizing this department was premature and other cost-cutting measures should have been looked at before going to this drastic measure.
Q: The county board sets budgets for departments run by other elected officials whom the board has no control over. How should the county board enforce the budgets it sets for these officials?
Hurlbut: This is the million-dollar question. I have been on the county board during the tenure of three county board chairmen, three state's attorneys and numerous elected officials. Every year the question arises, how do we keep everyone within their budgets. Every year we are required to work within three conflicting statutes to answer that question: the state internal control statute that provides that an elected official can spend theft budget without county interference; the state budget statute which provides that an elected official cannot spend more than their budget; and, the federal labor statutes that require the county to pay employees for hours worked whether or not their is money in the budget. Employees of elected officials are considered county employees for the purpose of these labor laws, but we are unable to hire or fire them under the internal control statutes. The county has now asked for a judicial determination from the courts to clarify these three conflicting statutes. Clarification of the priority of these conflicting laws will hopefully make it easier to enforce these budgets.
LaPorte: Did not answer
Shales: An area that needs to be looked at are the salaries of people who are making more than elected officials. For example, Health Director Paul Kuehnert currently makes $131,000 with the cuts to the health department due to the economic conditions of the state, but I don't see him volunteering to taking a pay cut.
At this point and time, we should focus on holding the line on spending and any kind of salary increases during these tough economic times. As far as revenue generating, I would like to see if there any old mined-out quarries that could be utilized like the Batavia quarry for example that can be potentially utilized by the forest preserve to generate income.
Q: Name a specific area of the county budget in which you can support a reduction. Also, what new revenue generator(s) would you support?
Hurlbut: This question is tied to the previous question. County departments, not including transportation, are only (part) of the total general fund budget. Those budgets have been cut each year over the last three years. In addition, county departments employees have not received raises in the last three years. In order to make a true dent in county spending, we need the assistance of all county and elected departments. Many of these elected officials are working with the board on these issues. We cannot rely on property tax increases to fund increased government. In addition to continued review to cut the size of government we need to look at future revenues that are tied to user fees and not on increased tax levies.
LaPorte: Did not answer
Shales: During these times, taxpayers expect all of us to use taxpayer money wisely and be fiscally responsible. We need to look at how these budgets are funded carefully without sacrificing service or public safety. It's hard for me to say how or where I would cut without properly knowing how each office runs. Once elected, I'll review each budget and visit each facility to see how it runs. This will help me during the budgeting process so we can work together with these department to help them reduce costs and increases efficiencies without going over budget. There seems to be so much infighting between the county board and the elected officials that hinders harmony for successful budgeting processes.