Sandra Hart: Candidate Profile
Lake County board District 13
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Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.
City: Lake Bluff
Office sought: Lake County board District 13
Family: Married for fourteen years to Tom, who grew up in Lake Bluff. We have three children, two girls and a boy, aged 10, 8, and 5.
Occupation: Community Leader Former employee of the Shields Township Assessor's office.
Education: BS, Indiana University School of Business, Marketing MBA, DePaul University, Marketing and Organizational Development
Civic involvement: Vice-President, Lake Bluff Park District Board, 2005-present Member, Northwestern-Lake Forest Hospital Women's Board Chair, 21st Century Skills, Lake Bluff Elementary School Chair, VoteYes65, resulting in passage of referendum for LEED certified elementary school in 2007. Site Coordinator for co-op of local organic family farmers Parent Representative for Eco-Club at LB Elementary School
Elected offices held: Lake Bluff Park District, 2005 - present. Vice-President
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: no
Key Issue 1
My first priority is to establish strong lines of communication with residents and county businesses.
I will be setting up business roundtables to hear firsthand how Lake County can work directly on issues that matter to our local small, medium, and large businesses.
I will also hold "county hall" meetings regularly to listen to residents and provide an opportunity for dialog. County government is critical to many of the areas of the 13th District, and I will seek input from residents to be sure their concerns are being represented.
Key Issue 2
I believe that the budget is the most important policy document of any governmental body. I have the skills and experience necessary to evaluate and monitor County operations on behalf of District 13 residents. After our schools, Lake County is the largest taxing body for our residents. It is critical that we maintain the County's AAA bond rating and continue to carefully examine the budget for any opportunities to alleviate the tax burden. I will monitor the budget carefully to be sure that every penny is used as effectively as possible.
Key Issue 3
Lake County Board members also serve as Forest Preserve District Commissioners, and I am looking forward to serving in this capacity. The residents of our district believe in the value of open spaces and environmental stewardship. I am committed to continuing the District's work of conserving open space.
As an example, while serving on the advisory committee for the Fort Sheridan golf course, I voted against the plan to place a golf course there. The Fort Sheridan property is unique, and, if conserved as a forest preserve, will provide important open space for the residents of Lake County. It is not fiscally nor environmentally responsible to pursue its development as a golf course, as golf revenues are on the decrease nationally.
The county remains in the black, but property taxes across the region are high. Should programs be cut to save taxpayers money? If so, which ones and why?
Property taxes are of critical importance to residents of Lake County as many families throughout the county are struggling with underemployment or lack of employment.
In times of diminishing resources, we must not increase the services we provide; however, it is vital to the well-being of residents to maintain current services.
I will be focused on finding areas of operational efficiencies throughout the budget, not just in those areas funded by property taxes.
Even though Lake County Government may only account for 7% of our tax bills, every dollar counts, and I will be carefully analyzing the budget to ensure crucial services are delivered with the fewest taxpayer dollars.
In fact, recently the Lake Bluff Park District Board, on which I serve, voted unanimously to NOT increase the 2012 levy extension by the CPI in order to alleviate some of the tax burden, however small, to our residents.
I am looking forward to bringing my financial acumen to bear to analyze the cost/benefit of allocating scarce revenues without jeopardizing public safety or critical county services.
What should be done with the Fort Sheridan golf course? If no building or management proposals come back from vendors, do you propose abandoning golf? If so, are you concerned about a lawsuit? If you propose building a course, how should it be funded?
I was selected to participate in the Fort Sheridan Advisory Committee, and I voted against a golf course at Fort Sheridan.
Golf revenue has been in a downward trend for the last twelve years, and the Chicago area market is one of the most saturated golf markets in the country.
Golf courses in the area have experienced revenue shortfalls, and two of the three county courses, Thunderhawk and Brae Loch, have been losing money.
A course at Fort Sheridan is projected to draw approximately 10% of players from area courses, which are already operating at very slim margins at best.
In effect, we would be using taxpayer dollars from residents across Lake County to fund a course that, in the end, would take revenue away from local municipal courses. Most importantly, that parcel of land is invaluable and unique, comprising 258 acres on Lake Michigan.
In addition, several studies done over the last seven years show a strong, positive correlation between parcel value and proximity to open space.
Communities with adjacent open space are desirable, thereby drawing visitors, residents, and businesses.
I know that Fort Sheridan homeowners are greatly concerned about property values, and some purchased their homes because of the promise of a golf course.
While I understand their concerns, research shows that their homes could actually be more positively impacted by open space than a golf course.
It is worth noting that the Forest Preserve did not receive any responses for the RFP, which was due on January 6.
I believe this simply proves the point that pursuing a golf course at Fort Sheridan is not economically feasible. A lawsuit may or may not materialize, but I believe that the county has shown good faith effort in examining options for fulfilling the terms of the deed restriction in a fiscally responsible way.
The Winchester House nursing home recently was turned over to a private company for operation. Should other county or forest district departments be privatized to save taxpayers money? Please explain.
It is always a difficult decision to privatize, since it affects employees, levels of service, and transparency for taxpayers.
At the Lake Bluff Park District, on which I serve, we are constantly evaluating our facilities and services to cut costs while still providing excellent service to our customers and residents.
One area that is often discussed for privatization opportunities is golf courses, but this may not make sense for Lake County.
Most of the golf employees are seasonal, and therefore savings on benefits, including pension and medical, do not apply.
When looking at other County services, the private sector is not involved in criminal justice, issuing permits, building and zoning, etc., so privatizing is not a valid avenue.
The bigger picture is that we must constantly monitor the budget and ensure that taxpayer dollars are used prudently for the greatest return.
My background in business and budgeting will be extremely beneficial in analyzing the finances for money saving opportunities.
Is there a specific type of service or amenity that is lacking in your district? If so, how do you propose to provide and fund that?
Much of District 13 is unincorporated, with residents relying on the Lake County Public Works for safe water and sanitary sewer.
I will be sure that the residents of District 13 have access to safe drinking water and, if needed or requested, county sewer services.
Since Public Works operates without taxpayer support - all costs associated with Public Works are funded entirely by the revenues generated from the users - there is no impact to our taxpayers. Additionally, waste collection and recycling in the unincorporated areas must be contracted out.
The County is the municipality of record for unincorporated residents, yet it does not negotiate advantageous waste collection contracts as do the other municipalities.
I believe we should explore how our unincorporated residents could be better and more economically served by negotiating contracts.
This would also eliminate pollution and road degradation caused by trucks from multiple collectors traversing the same streets several times a week.
This would not increase taxpayer costs as waste collection is not taxpayer funded. While there may be needs within District 13, now is not the time to fund new programs with taxpayer dollars.
The role of county government is to provide regional services as efficiently and fiscally responsibly as possible.
As the representative for District 13, I am committed to ensuring my district is fairly and equitably served by Lake County government in light of the contributions made by our taxpayers.
Should the county continue to pursue open space policies' Why or why not?
In 2008, the residents of Lake County voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Forest Preserves Referendum, which gave the Forest Preserves $148 million dollars to acquire land.
While the downturn in the economy has had dire consequences for so many of our residents, the soft real estate market has enabled the Forest Preserves to make land acquisitions at a favorable cost to the taxpayers.
Interest rates are low, which makes these purchases even more advantageous.
The Forest Preserves account for less than 3% of our property taxes, and the benefits derived from open space are enormous.
Open space provides recreation and educational opportunities; supports and protects the diversity of plant and animal life; and significantly impacts our quality of life.
It is also good business.
Research shows that preserving land saves local tax money and is better than residential development, as little or no municipal services are needed to support open space.
It also has a positive impact on local property values, and makes the area more attractive for business and investment.
Growth and development are necessary, but they must be managed in order to protect our natural heritage and the beauty of Lake County.
By continuing to acquire land in a fiscally responsible manner, the Forest Preserve is carrying out the wishes of the residents.
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