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updated: 3/1/2012 11:18 AM

Q&A with Kane County Board challengers in 10th district: Susan Starrett and Tom Van Cleave

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  • Susan Starrett, Republican candidate for Kane County Board District 10.

      Susan Starrett, Republican candidate for Kane County Board District 10.

  • Thomas Van Cleave, Republican candidate for Kane County Board District 10.

      Thomas Van Cleave, Republican candidate for Kane County Board District 10.

 
Daily Herald staff reports

Two Republicans are seeking their party's nomination for a seat on the Kane County Board, 10th district.

Susan Starrett, 39, of North Aurora is challenging two-term incumbent Tom Van Cleave, 62, of Batavia.

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The Daily Herald asked the candidates several questions about their district. Some of their answers are provided here; for all of them visit dailyherald.com.

Q. What is your number one campaign issue?

Starrett. Finances. I feel that the people in District 10 need a break on their taxes. I will work to freeze or decrease taxes at every opportunity.

Van Cleave. Reduce the impact of property taxes by the county on the individual tax payer and at the same time keep the county financially sound. The county's bond rating has recently been upgraded to AA1 by Moody and in 2009 Standard and Poor upgraded their rating of the County to AAPlus.

Q. Do you support a more stringent ethics ordinance for Kane County governing the conduct of elected officials and county employees? Why or why not? If so, what should the ordinance contain?

Starrett. I support a more stringent ethics ordinance for Kane County governing the conduct of elected officials and county employees. People continually say they are transparent and are doing nothing wrong, but why are they not telling people where they are receiving donations prior to voting (i.e. approving contracts, promoting people, and raises to people)? My opponent has voted against this proactive approach, but I believe this is one of the most important things we can do for voters.

Van Cleave. Yes. An ethics ordinance must be legal and enforceable. We have had two state's attorneys give the board an opinion that the original ordinance is flawed. The new draft is much improved and is not washed down from the original ordinance -- in fact, in several areas it is stronger. The ordinance proposed by the committee regulates the following additional activities, which the state act does not require that the County regulate:

Section 10: Contractor Disclosure

Section 11: Officer Disclosure

Section 12: Conflict of Interest

Section 13: Future and Former Employment

Section 14: Use of Proprietary or Confidential Information

Section 16: Lobbying.

Section 17: Disclosure

(Officers and those persons appointed to a board, commission, authority, or task force authorized or created by the County of Kane, must file with the Kane County Clerk a disclosure of all contracts the person or his or her spouse or immediate family members living with the person have with Kane County )

Section 18: Prohibition on Serving on Boards and Commissions

Section 19: Employment of Family Members

Section 20: Representation of Third Parties

(1. No Officer appointee, appointed official, or his or her employee who is a licensed attorney, may represent or act on behalf of any person or entity in a formal or informal proceeding )

Section 21: Dual Pension.

The new ordinance regulates the political activities of, the soliciting and accepting of gifts by, and the offering and making of gifts to, officers and employees of Kane County.

Q. The county's portion of gambling proceeds has been decreasing every year for several years. What is your plan to prioritize use of that money? What might be done to wean the agencies and programs that receive this money off of it?

Starrett. Within the county, for areas that rely on this money, decisions need to be made whether these are priorities that need to be used out of the existing tax revenue. There is only so much money and we need to do what is best for our citizens. I would explore ways with agencies to help recruit finances, other than government funding.

Outside the county, this money should be used one time for one time expenses. A review should be made of money used outside Kane County.

Van Cleave. The purpose of the Grant Program "is to serve as a financial aid for programs strengthening Kane County's communities and government through efforts in education, environment, and economic development and with emphasis on addressing Kane County problems and providing long term solutions." I feel that the committee needs to be diligent in making sure that the organizations are using the grant money in the way it was intended.

I would not want to "wean" any social service agency off the Riverboat Grant Program because they are in great need of any assistance the program can offer. It is likely that the dollar amount of the grants will be less in the future. In 2011 we granted over $1 million to organizations in Kane County. I continue to support Grants for Farm Land preservation, Drug Court and Employee training (based on amount received from the riverboats).

Q. Do you believe the Kane County court system needs a computer system upgrade that might cost as much as $12.6 million? If so, do you support using RTA sales tax money to fund the cost, or do you have a different plan? If not, what is your alternative plan?

Starrett. There are many different options, but one option would be to use the existing Kane County IT department, with additional staff, to develop part or all of this program.

Ultimately, I feel that this long-term decision needs to be made by a new board and a new county board chairman. This new board should take a fresh look at the almost $1 million dollars in sales tax money from the RTA.

Van Cleave. The Circuit Court Clerk needs an upgraded computer system. I do support the use of RTA funds to support the dollars needed or any other funding source that does not affect property taxes. The board would issue bonds against the RTA tax revenue -- not increasing property taxes.

Q. Do you believe county board members and the chairman should receive health insurance and pension benefits? If you are running for one of those positions, do you plan on accepting those benefits? Why or why not?

Starrett. I believe that the chairman by IMRF has to be covered by retirement benefits and is considered a full-time employee. Health insurance for a full-time employee should be part of their benefit package. County board members should make individual decisions and be transparent in their decision.

Van Cleave. Kane County does not employ a professional administrator whose responsibility it is to coordinate and evaluate the functioning of the multiple departments. This responsibility is primarily assumed by the county chairman and the members of the board. Each of us takes this obligation seriously, and, because of the time required, view ourselves as elected officials with the additional responsibilities of employees of the taxpayers. I believe it is fair for board members to receive modest compensation for this commitment. It is my feeling that all workers are entitled to some form of health and retirement planning. Kane County offers health and IMRF benefits to Board members just as it does to all county employees. Board members choose to participate at their own expense. I do not participate in the county health insurance program. I do contribute to IMRF through payroll deduction and allow the contributions to the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund to be deducted from my paychecks.

Q. How do you resolve the ongoing debate over the county board setting budgets for departments run by other elected officials whom the county board has no control over? How should the county board enforce the budgets it sets?

Starrett. The county board, statutorily, has to set the budget for elected county officials, however, this should be done in cooperation with elected officials, not in a dictatorial fashion. The county board needs to know and review specifically what they are funding with elected official's projects.

Van Cleave. Pursuant to state law, the County Board is responsible for establishing the budget for all county departments and elected offices. Departments of elected officials submit a budget to the finance committee and then to the board. Once the budget is approved it is funded. All department heads and elected officials are required to stay within the budget appropriated for the fiscal year for his/her department within the specified funds. The operation of spending the funds is in the authority of the elected official. But, if the elected or department head anticipates exceeding budget he/she must notify the finance director in writing and submit a supplemental budget request. If the supplemental budget request is not approved the department head or elected official is not authorized to spend in excess of his/her department budget. Good rationale must be presented and an appropriate funding source in order to receive approval of the supplemental budget request. If the department continues to spend over their budget, the board has the authority not to pay the bills that exceed the budget. The finance director works closely with all departments reviewing budgets monthly to ensure compliance.

The board has asked each department to cut their expenses and most have complied. As stated before, I support requiring all departments and offices to prepare a midyear revenue and expenditure projection.

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