The candidates for Kane County Board chairman made pledges Thursday that might have direct impacts on taxpayer pocketbooks.
Democrat Sue Klinkhamer and Republican Chris Lauzen took stances on the county's pending budget and the future budgets they'd play major roles in forming if elected. The pair debated the issue at a forum in St. Charles.
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Lauzen renewed a pledge he made during the primary race to freeze the county's overall tax levy if elected.
"It makes no sense to me that the property tax levy would go up when property values have gone down," Lauzen said to an audience from the local business community. "The less taxpayers pay for government, the more discretionary income they have to pay you."
The county would lose tax revenue by freezing the tax levy. Lauzen, however, also pledged to find the money to improve nonunion employees' salaries in county government to make them more in line with the salaries of unionized employees.
"That is my No. 1 operating budget priority -- get us back on track showing people that they have a future working for all of us," Lauzen said. "Right now we are encouraging the unionization of other employees. Not good."
Lauzen suggested nonunion salaries of rank-and-file employees could have been kept at fair levels all along if not for salary increases given to department heads. He alluded specifically to a pay bump for former Development Department Director Phil Bus that is involved in the lawsuit between County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay and political rival Jim MacRunnels.
"When we see department directors getting nearly 50 percent raises, working a little while, then retiring on a pension and coming back to work on a contract, how can we control the morale?" Lauzen asked.
McConnaughay has defended raises for department heads as proper compensation to employees who took on more responsibility after a money-saving move to consolidate several departments.
Klinkhamer is on the opposite of all of those positions. She is not in favor of freezing the county's tax levy. Doing so limits the ability to address employees' salaries and will trigger big service cuts down the line, she said.
"One of the issues I have with freezing the tax levy or cutting any kind of taxes is you have to give up something," Klinkhamer said. "You have to give up services. You have to give up treating your employees well."
Klinkhamer said the county's department directors are paid what they deserve. She believes it is the county's elected officials who are paid too much. Klinkhamer said officials should have cut eight seats from the board instead of two when they had the chance after the recent redistricting.
Klinkhamer pledged to cut the salary of the chairman by 25 percent if elected. She also pledged to remove the health insurance board members receive despite being part-time employees. No other part-time county employees receive health insurance or the pension Kane County Board members get.
"I never hear them say they will cut their pay or get rid of their benefits," Klinkhamer said of county board members. "A part-time board member gets full benefits. That's wrong. Many of these jobs should be consolidated. That's where I think the savings should come from."