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updated: 9/21/2012 4:39 PM

Michael Skala: Candidate Profile

McHenry County board District 5 (Republican)

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  • Michael Skala, running for McHenry County board District 5

      Michael Skala, running for McHenry County board District 5

 

 

 

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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.

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BioKey IssuesQ&A

 

Bio

City: Huntley

Website: http://www.mikeskala.com

Office sought: McHenry County board District 5

Age: 41

Family: Married to Carol for 17 years. Two daughters, Charlotte and Anna.

Occupation: Owner of Innovative Component Sales, Inc.

Education: BS from Northern Illinois University

Civic involvement: Youth Soccer Coach for the Huntley Park District. Active at Resurrection Catholic Church Active at Tooling and Manufacturing Association

Elected offices held: Board Of Education District 158

Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

I believe McHenry County?s #1 priority needs to be creating a climate that makes our existing employers want to stay here, and make businesses from outside our county and state want to relocate here. I believe this is especially important for McHenry County since our county borders Wisconsin, a state that is actively trying to lure our businesses over the border. Policies regarding new businesses starts and relocations need to be reevaluated so they are competitive with what other areas are offering as incentives. Policies for existing business owners, who wish to hire more employees or expand, must also be reevaluated so that procedures for expansions are easy, yet fair. Incentives could include job training, rebates on taxes, and low interest loans for capital improvements. Zoning laws, as they relate to business development, should also be reviewed and made less restrictive, and the county should continue working with the Economic Development Corporation to actively solicit companies to move to the county. Being close to Wisconsin does not have to be a detriment to job creation. It can be a benefit if the proper enticements and regulations are in place.

Key Issue 2

The County has many committees, sub committees and special committees that do the work and governance of the County. I believe the County Board members should look at the function of each of these layers and streamline them to make the system as a whole more efficient. Under my leadership as Board President for School District 158, we cut the number of regular scheduled meetings from four per month to two. We also cut the average length of each meeting from five or more hours per meeting to today?s average of two or three. This was achieved by putting the proper processes, procedures and policies in place so that the Board could efficiently and effectively govern. Often board members try to do the work of the administrators. A healthy board provides the administrative staff, which was hired because they are experts in their field, with clear and concise direction and then relies on staff to provide recommendations based on data and research. Administrative staff should be held accountable for their actions and the Board should not interfere with staff work.

Key Issue 3

I believe the budget process in McHenry County can be improved in efficiency and transparency. The Board this summer voted to change their policy regarding how much money should be in reserve. They changed it from five months to six months because the reserve had grown over the five months. This is not responsible government. For the last 14 years, I have been involved with creating budgets for District 158, so I bring a fresh perspective to board discussions about creating budgets that meet the needs of the residents, and also show accountability to the taxpayers. In my research into McHenry County?s budget process, I learned that the full County Board does not look at the budget until August, only three months before they are statutorily required to adopt it. In my opinion, the full Board should establish the variables that they want to use every year before the budget process is started so that staff can present relevant and meaningful data for discussion. Each month some aspect of the budget could be discussed at the Board level, and as more accurate information is obtained it could be inserted into the next year?s proposed working budget.

Questions & Answers

McHenry County has managed the recession without a budgetary crisis like those in other counties. How do you ensure the county continues on that path and that reserves aren?t depleted? Are there specific budget areas that need more attention?

The County Board needs to have a balanced budget each year, and the county has already established a policy that requires a six-month working cash reserve. By using a zero-based budgeting process every year, the reserves will not be depleted. Using a zero-based budget process forces each department to justify the amount of money they are requesting from the Board every year. The administration and Board then need to hold the department to their respective budget and only allow changes for unforeseen expenses. With regard to areas that need attention, I believe the budget review and adoption process should be changed. The full Board needs to view the entire budget more than 3 months before they are asked to vote on approving it. By having the full Board establish the variables and parameters early in the process, the administration can present relevant and meaningful data. With this change the Board will not find itself in the situation they did last year when some members wanted to change the CPI assumption the night before the budget vote. Every month the Board should be getting an update through a dashboard process of the current fiscal year expenditures and revenue. They should also receive a report on the changes that have been made to the next fiscal year?s budget.

Does the McHenry County Board have a good transportation improvement plan? Please be specific and suggest whether you think anything is missing or should be scrapped.

The County has a five-year Highway Improvement Plan and is currently released the prelimary County 2040 transportation plan. The five-year plan appears to be a fluid document that includes a balance of projects which include new road projects, current road expansion projects, resurfacing projects, bridge work, safety projects and funding for the county?s public transportation system. For the long-term plan, the County needs to develop a matrix that will prioritize the existing infrastructure based on its current condition and the rate at which it is deteriorating. With this matrix in place, a schedule of maintenance, major repair or replacement can be created with a time frame associated with the need, along with estimated cost figures for each project. A priority schedule can be determined and the County Board can then make decisions on how much money will be spent each year on the current infrastructure. Another matrix listing additional infrastructure needs can be created based on demand and need. With this information, a priority schedule can be created and the Board will make decisions based on data.

Does the county need to address its ethics policies? Why or why not? If so, how?

The ethics ordinance that is in place is very detailed and thorough, and it needs to be enforced. Any time a violation is discovered it needs to be dealt with swiftly and fairly. While the ethics ordinance speaks to many issues, I was surprised to see that it did not address the Open Meetings Act. I see a significant need for the Board as a whole to renew its desire to live by the letter and spirit of the Open Meetings Act. There was an occasion last year when some board members purposely tried to circumvent the Act during closed door discussions about new district boundaries. They had one of the members rotate out of the meeting so they did not violate the letter of the Open Meetings Act. They most definitely, however, violated its spirit. In my opinion it was a display of arrogance and disrespect toward the people of the County. It is my opinion that the peoples? business should be conducted in a completely transparent manner.

Assess McHenry County?s efforts thus far in terms of groundwater preservation and protection. What needs to be done now and in the future?

Groundwater preservation and protection must be viewed through two lenses: usage and disposal. With regard to usage, I believe the County has done a good job of researching and studying the county?s groundwater needs and deficiencies, and in educating the public about them. However, I think more could be done to reduce usage through the enactment of requirements for reduced flow rate fixtures and for landscape/grass watering restrictions. The disposal of water through rain run-off and septic is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Chemicals used in agriculture and road treatments need to be earth friendly. Water is an extremely valuable resource for the people who live and work in McHenry County. If this resource ever becomes endangered or depleted, the nearest source of water would be in Wisconsin or via Lake Michigan. Either option would be very expensive and would not be in the best interest of the taxpayers.

Assess how the county health department approached the whooping cough outbreak. What should have been done differently?

Last year?s whooping cough outbreak was worse than normal, and I believe the Health Department did a good job with their efforts to educate the public and slow the spread of the disease. Health Department officials did a good job notifying the schools on the steps they should take to minimize the spread of the outbreak, and through the media, they also let the residents know what to look for and explained how whooping cough was different from a common cold and cough. They also shared recommendations with the County about how to treat the disease and explained the critical steps that should be taken to stop its spread. The Health Department held clinics to immunize those at risk and provided for free or reduced cost immunizations for residents from lower-income demographics. When the outbreak subsides, I would recommend a debriefing session whereby health and county officials could discuss what went ?well,? and where things could be done more effectively in the future.

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