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updated: 2/22/2013 6:09 PM

Christopher Larson: Candidate Profile

Avon Township Board (4-year Terms) (Independent)

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  • Christopher Larson, running for Avon Township Board (4-year Terms)

      Christopher Larson, running for Avon Township Board (4-year Terms)

 

 

 

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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: Hainesville

Website: http://www.avonaction.com

Office sought: Avon Township Board (4-year Terms)

Age: 37

Family: Married 14 years, 2 daughters ages 13 and 11

Occupation: Senior Application Developer

Education: Graduate of Carmel Catholic High School - 1993 Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist Microsoft Certified Application Developer

Civic involvement: Union Square Condominium Association - Treasurer - 4 Yrs Faith Church, Upward Basketball Coach - 3 Yrs

Elected offices held: Candidate did not respond.

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

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

Fiscal responsibility and accountability My first priority is to ensure that Avon Township continues to find ways to reduce unnecessary and wasteful spending and adheres strictly to a balanced annual budget.

Key Issue 2

Local economy and job growth The local economy and tax levies are a tightly-knit combination. Reducing levies alone can only go so far to reduce the tax burden on residents and businesses. Growing the local economy and increasing the tax base spreads the tax burden across an increased number of properties 'thus further reducing tax levies.

Key Issue 3

Statewide township reform Township government has a smaller role than ever in the populous and dense Lake County especially in Avon Township. With levies of nearly two million dollars - half of that going to twelve miles of road it is fiscally irresponsible to continue to operate many of the township functions that are duplicated by local municipalities and county-wide departments. Our communities would be better served by having those dollars go towards education. While Township government has a clear and necessary purpose in rural Illinois or suburban communities with large rural areas by providing vital services, there is little to no need for township government in Avon Township when the same services can be directed through the county and/or private organizations at a far more reasonable cost.

Questions & Answers

Name the three most important goals or objectives this board should tackle in the coming term. Prioritize them, and briefly discuss why you believe each to be critical, and how the board should go about addressing them.

The first goal would be continued fiscal responsibility and accountability. Lake County has the highest tax rate in Illinois. I believe that the township can work with local government entities to find creative ways to reduce spending and lower tax rates making the communities within Avon Township a more affordable and desirable place to live. This can be accomplished through operational improvements that reduce overhead, salary freezes and reductions for elected officials and reduction or elimination of non-essential spending. By accomplishing these goals within Avon Township without diminishing provided services I hope that our slate will encourage and provide a model for other local units of government to follow. The second goal would be to engage the residents and businesses of the community and encourage the growth of our local economy. This would be accomplished through a number of avenues. Through the accomplishment of our first goal - the reduction of spending (and thus, accompanying levies) - the communities within Avon Township would become more friendly to new businesses and the potential employees those businesses would bring to our community. Encouraging residents to spend locally with small businesses by promoting "shop local" campaigns would help to stimulate growth while promoting a stronger sense of overall community. The third goal would be to engage the community in and open and candid dialogue regarding the need for township government in our area to better understand community sentiment. Government exists for the people, but also by the people. If the residents no longer feel that the township level of government is relevant and that a new model for services be provided in a more cost-effective way, every effort should be made to meet the will of the people.

In the 21st Century, with municipalities gobbling up vacant land, why are townships needed? Should they be serving a new role? If so, what?

In more rural communities, township government still has a number of major roles to play in maintaining roads and providing a central place to meet with residents that are more spread-out. In Avon Township, however, the needs are significantly different. While the general services provided by the office of the Supervisor such as General Assistance, Food Pantry and the like are still best managed for the communities through a centralized place to minimize duplication of efforts, highway management represents a tiny fraction of the surfaced roads throughout the township, yet continues to represent a significant tax burden to residents and businesses. Functions such as road maintenance could be more affordably serviced by County government rather than at the Township level. The FY2012 Road Funds represented nine hundred thousand dollars in taxes for sixty-five thousand residents. The non-salary operational costs alone exceed one-hundred fifty thousand dollars or about one thousand dollars per mile of road maintained just in operational overhead. While the township cannot easily or readily dissolve the office of the highway commissioner at this time, services could be contracted out to the county or local municipalities through an intergovernmental agreement that would provide immediate cost reductions through the elimination of unnecessary overhead alone. I am also a proponent that the Assessor's office should be a centralized helected position held at the county level with certified employees working at the township/local levels only. This would better normalize and control salary levels of assessors throughout the county and reduce duplication of overhead. Overall, the reduction in levies could drop by over one million dollars per year in operating costs and salaries for Avon Township residents for these duplicated services. In regards to the supervisor and clerk positions, both continue to be necessary as long as townships are required to exist. However, salaries for these positions should be brought down to a more reasonable amount and at no time exceed the base salary of an Illinois State Representative. The average salary in Lake County for a township supervisor based on a Daily Herald article from October 2011 was $67,392 nearly the same as the base salary for a State Representative. While there are some supervisors that receive less than this, some salaries are in excess of eighty thousand dollars annually. In no way should a township supervisor receive greater compensation that a state legislator.

What should be the primary responsibility of township government?

As long as township government is required to exist in suburban and urban areas, it should be about providing assistive services to the local community and municipalities that it serves. Whether this is done through food pantries, ride assistance, providing meeting space and resources or working with local organizations and residents as an accessible liaison to other government entities the township can still provide necessary services to residents at a reasonable cost to the residents. At the same time, township government in Lake County with larger population densities should be working with state officials to make themselves obsolete in the long term. effectively eliminating the jobs they were elected to perform. While this idea may seem counterintuitive to most elected officials, the most effective way to reduce tax burdens on citizens is to reduce government spending as completely as possible.

In these hard economic times, can you identify some township expenses/programs that could be trimmed or eliminated to reduce the tax burden?

The best way Avon Township can continue to reduce tax burdens is through continuing to reduce salaries for elected officials and finding additional ways to cut general operating expenses through intergovernmental agreements. While the current group of elected officials have worked hard to reduce costs, there is still more that can be done to provide more services at lower costs such as piggy-backing communications through municipal resident mailings, further reducing the subsidized amount paid out towards elected official's healthcare plans and the continued reduction of salaries for elected officials.

What specific background or experience do you bring that makes you the best qualified candidate to serve as an elected official in the township?

I have a strong professional background in information technology, distribution and general accounting. As an IT professional for nearly twenty yearsten in distribution I have worked with numerous businesses in finding ways to improve efficiency and reduce costs through both technical and operational changes. This experience affords me the opportunity to serve the residents of Avon Township by applying those same concepts at the government level and then sharing those successes (and failures) with other townships local governmental bodies to help demonstrate what does or does not work from a standpoint of reducing costs. In more recent years, my experience with budgeting and financial management as Treasurer for the Union Square Homeowners Association (Hainesville, IL) has helped me to understand better the difficulties of balancing costs and preparing for the future. For the past four years, our association has maintained a balanced non-deficit budget, avoided large assessment increases for residents, reduced penalties and fines, and managed to operate at a fifteen percent deficit in actual revenue compared to expected revenue while maintaining expected levels of services all without overspending and maintaining consistent contributions to long-term capital savings budget. Our board has also worked together to develop a thirty-year projection for expected maintenance projects and projected budgets that reduce assessment increases to no more than an annual cost of living percentage and many years eliminate the need for an increase at all. I hope to bring this experience from both a business and civic viewpoint to the township level whereby the board and officials can work together and with residents, government units and area businesses to solve these real-world challenges that face our residents today.

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