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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.
Office sought: Avon Township Assessor (4-year Term)
Family: I have a wife,Kimberley, who I have been married to for the last 18 years. I have an adult step-daughter, Kelley. I have a son, Brian, who is a sophomore at Grayslake Central High School. We have a yellow Lab, Chloe.
Occupation: I am the Assessor for Avon Township.
Education: I have a B.S. from St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota. I have a Juris Doctor, J.D., from The John Marshall Law School. I have a CIAO Certificate from the Illinois Property Assessment Institute.
Civic involvement: I served on the Board of the Round Lake Area Chamber of Commerce from 2006-2010, and served as vice-president for several years. I have been an assistant and a head coach with the Grayslake Colts. I have been an assistant and head coach with the Grayslake Park District in-house basketball. I have been an assistant and a head coach with the Grayslake Youth baseball program.
Elected offices held: I was elected to the position of Avon Township Trustee in April of 2009 and I held that position until December 27, 2011. On December 28, 2011 I became the Avon Township Assessor.
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No.
Key Issue 1
1. Taxes. As the current Avon Township Assessor, there are several ways in which I can help to reduce the tax burden on the property owners in Avon Township. First, when the tax bills for last year were received by the property owners in Avon Township, I was shocked by the number of property owners, both seniors and low income individuals, who came into or called my office, sometimes in tears, that they could not afford the tax bill payment. These individuals spoke of loosing their homes, some of which had resided in the homes for all their adult lives. This is unacceptable. To think our most vulnerable citizens would lose their homes was stomach turning. After hearing many of the same stories, I realized that as the Assessor I needed to help these individuals and, to that end, I have partnered with State Representative Sam Yingling to introduce HB 0944, which I am proud to say, would double the Homestead and Senior Exemption amounts and provide immediate relief to those distressed property owners. Second, as Avon Township Assessor, I was able to reduce the assessments in Avon Township by as much as 12.2% last year. In doing so, I was able to bring property values closer to current values but there is more work to be done. I will look to reduce the assessment by 10-12% again for this coming year. It remains my goal to ensure that property owners are only paying their fair share of property taxes and by correctly assessing property; I can insure that takes place.
Key Issue 2
2. Assessments. I believe it is critically important to insure that property owners are only paying their fair share of property taxes and the property assessment is critical to that goal. I will continue to assess in a uniform, equitable and transparent manner, to ensure that assessments are in line with the State mandated three-year average. Again, I plan to reduce the assessments by 10-12% again this year. I will continue to encourage property owners to come into my office and discuss any issues they might have with their assessments. While the function of any Township Assessor is to mass appraise the Township properties, it is extremely helpful when a property owner comes into the office and points out a change in the property that may affect the assessment. Before I began the job of Avon Township Assessor, I was, like others, discouraged by the office mentality of providing as little help as possible to the property owners. I am implementing new office policy that will change this mentality. My office will provide all the assistance necessary to make the Avon Township Assessor's office the first and only place a property owner will need to visit to have their questions answered.
Key Issue 3
3. The Continuation of Township Government. Is there a need for Township government? That is a key question and depends on where the Township is located. There is a need for Township government in rural Illinois, southern or western Illinois, compared to Township government in urban areas. Township government does provide essential services to the most needy in our community. The Township does provide emergency and general assistance, which does help a struggling individual or family pay critical expenses. The Township also provides a food pantry, which sustains many low income families and is needed now more than ever. However, it is certainly possible to work towards a plan that will allow the other existing governmental entities to provide the services of the Township. With the presentation of such a plan, the residents of the Township should have the ability to vote to then eliminate Township government or a portion thereof. It is of critical importance that we act to reduce the amount of expenses paid by state and local government if Illinois is to satisfy its massive debt. I believe that all options should be explored and reducing the layers of government is an excellent starting point.
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.
1. The reduction of the tax levy. I served for two and a half as a Township Trustee and I voted three times to lower the tax levy. I believe this is of over-riding importance, as this not only reduces the tax burden of Township residents, but it sets an example for all other taxing entities that lowering the levy and maintaining services can and should be done. The Board should continue to stress lower tax levies. 2. Fiscal Responsibility. I served for two and half years as a Township trustee and both times I have a vote on the budgets for the Township and the Highway Department, I voted for reduced budgets. I believe strongly in fiscal responsibility and that is why I reduced the Assessor's budget last year and will propose a budget with a further reduction this year. I believe it is incumbent on the Board to continue to hold the line on spending, as I have done, and I believe this will be critical over the next four years. The Board should leave the Township and its residents in a better position four years from now, as we have done over the last four years. 3. Innovation. The Board must address the issue of Township Government and its continuation. As a property owner in Avon Township, I want the Board to think of innovative ways to continue to reduce the tax burden and one such way is the restructuring or elimination of Township Government. The Board must insure that, before reduction or eliminations takes place, that the vital services that the Township provides will be addressed by other, existing, governmental entities or, perhaps, by not-for-profit organizations. Again, for government to exist into the 21st Century and beyond, tough action must be taken, while providing for the most vulnerable of society.
In the 21st Century, with municipalities gobbling up vacant land, why are townships needed? Should they be serving a new role? If so, what?
Townships are currently needed to provide emergency and general assistance to the needy, transportation services to seniors and to provide food, via a food pantry, to those individuals and families in need. Also Townships are needed to assess property and provide highway services to unincorporated areas of the Township. Townships should focus on their core-assistance, assessing and highway functions-and not branch off into areas that are already covered by existing governmental entities. For example, in Avon Township, we have the Grayslake Park District and the Round Lake Area Park District, the Township does not need to operate any programs of a park district nature. As plans are put in place to shift the duties of the Township to existing governmental entities or not-for-profit organizations, the residents of the Township should be able to vote to eliminate parts of Township government. In sum, Townships should not expand their footprint in areas that can be served by the existing governmental entities. The Township's role should be to reduce itself, while focusing on provided emergency and general assistance, transportation services to seniors, food pantry operations, assessment functions and highway operations.
What should be the primary responsibility of township government?
The primary responsibilities of Township government should be to provide emergency and general assistance, transportations services to seniors, food panty operations, assessment services and highway services. Again, Townships should not seek to duplicate services already available from other governmental entitles. As we progress forward, Townships, at least in the urban areas, can look to eliminating the highway department and folding those operations into local governmental entities or the County. The Township can also look to fold the remaining services into local governmental entities or the County.
In these hard economic times, can you identify some township expenses/programs that could be trimmed or eliminated to reduce the tax burden?
As part of the current administration, I take pride in the fact that we have reduced the levy and budgets for the past four years. We have strived to operate without bloated budgets and to operate only those programs truly necessary to Township government. I believe that we have succeeded and there are no programs that I would cut. However, I will continue to review my budget on a regular basis to determine if cuts can be accomplished without diminishing quality. I have spent considerable time on my most current budget and I have identified areas in which I can trim the budget, without effecting quality, such that I can cut the budget by $5,000.
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 am the best candidate for the job of Avon Township Assessor because I have been able to reduce the assessments in Avon Township by 12.2% last year and will reduce the assessments by 10-12% this year, to bring assessment more in line with current values. Further, I have voted to reduce the Township levies and have submitted reduced budgets. I will continue to budget accordingly and I will not raise my budget. My office will continue to operate in a fiscally prudent manner, which the residents of Avon Township deserve. I have actually reduced costs to the taxpayers of Avon Township, not merely promised such and I will continue to do so. Additionally, I have attained the designation of CIAO, after taking and passing the prescribed courses. Further, I am a licensed Illinois attorney, who has been actively practicing for the past 21 and a-half years. I have spent approximately 18 of those years in the area of real estate, which makes me uniquely qualified to hold the office of Assessor. I can apply my legal training to insure that my office complies with legal requirements of assessing and can provide substantive legal analysis to questions that arise from the County Assessor's Office, thereby reducing legal costs to the Township. Further, my experience as a real estate attorney in this area provides me with extensive knowledge of the nuances of the assessment neighborhoods, allowing me to tailor the assessments in a positive way, which someone without that knowledge could not. I have been trained to break down problems in an analytical way and find answers to those problems, which serves me well as the Assessor, for I can break down the information received from the Department of Revenue and apply it in a cohesive manner to our assessments.