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updated: 2/22/2013 6:06 PM

Kristina Kovarik: Candidate Profile

Gurnee Mayor (4-year Term) (Independent)

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  • Kristina Kovarik, running for Gurnee Mayor (4-year Term)

    Kristina Kovarik, running for Gurnee Mayor (4-year Term)




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



City: Gurnee


Office sought: Gurnee Mayor (4-year Term)

Age: 55

Family: Married, 4 adult children, 1 grandchild with another grandchild due in March, 2013

Occupation: Product Development in financial services industry

Education: Associates degree from St. Petersburg College, 1976

Civic involvement: Candidate did not respond.

Elected offices held: Village Trustee (Gurnee) - May, 1999 to April, 2005 Village President (Gurnee) - May, 2005 to April, 2013

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

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

Public Safety is my number one priority every single day. It is the most important service we provide to our residents and businesses. I have a long history of advocating for effective policies that protect our homes, streets, schools and business areas. I know that we can never become complacent or drop our vigilance. In addition to the safety of our neighborhoods, protecting Gurnee Mills and Six Flags Great America is critical to maintain a reputation for safety and ensure that our main revenue sources continue to be successful. Their revenues fund our vital Village services. I've made sure we have the best personnel in all of Lake County which includes police officers, fire fighters/paramedics, communication operators and our public works staff, building and fire inspectors. I have worked with all of our departments to introduce, promote or champion numerous programs that keep our community safe and improve the effectiveness of our personnel. That will always be my top priority and #1 issue.

Key Issue 2

I plan on and will continue to prepare a balanced budget without a property tax as I have the last 8 years. I've used prudent fiscal management and tax dollars judiciously on services that meet the expectations of my residents. Regardless of economic conditions, residents and businesses expect and demand the best in public services. Under my tenure we have strengthened our reserves and maintained a AA+ financial rating despite being heavily reliant on volatile revenue sources. I have reduced staff where possible, improved productivity and efficiency through technology that enables us to do more with less people and found ways to reduce expenses such as intergovernmental agreements, new procedures, and consolidated functions.

Key Issue 3

I have stepped up my focus on economic development the last 4 years and there is much more to do the next 4 years. The Village is and always will be almost completely dependent on consumer spending to fund vital public services. I've initiated several programs to make sure that Gurnee remains a top regional shopping and dining destination. I've been aggressive at making sure we do the right things at the right time to attract new businesses, retain the businesses that we have and to make sure that our businesses are able to grow year over year. The most important issue to my residents is low taxes and exceptional public services and that is only possible thru a robust local economy.

Questions & Answers

Macy's recently was induced to build at Gurnee Mills through a financial incentive package offered by the village. Is this a good idea for future use with other companies? Please explain.

It would never be a good idea to offer a financial incentive to one company just for locating a business in your community. That would only induce companies to move from one location to the other chasing the highest bidder with no performance expectations. To attract, locate and accommodate the Macy's at Gurnee Mills required significant infrastructure improvements. The inducement was an arrangement with Simon Group to fund the cost of those infrastructure improvements making a deal between Simon Group and Macy's financially feasible. The agreement between the Village and Simon Group is very specific to the objectives we expected to be achieved from our investment. Securing the Macy's fits with the goal of Gurnee continuing as a regional shopping destination. You have to invest now if you want to be relevant in the future and with over 60% of the funding for public services coming from consumer-driven sources it is imperative that we make the right investment to secure that designation. The Macy's arrival is having a "halo" effect on the entire corridor so the return on our investment will be significant and lasting. Incentives should be under-used and only on types of businesses or activities that represent a dramatic and significant opportunity beyond just the one/specific company. They should be tied to performance or long-term capital improvements that benefit the broader community - not just handed out for moving in.

The village has used public money to pump up businesses in town through the Gurnee's Got It! marketing campaign. Is this something that should continue? Why or why not?

The campaign was designed to promote Gurnee as a shopping and dining destination and to promote shopping local. The out of pocket costs the Village has made to the "Gurnee's Got It!" campaign is $20K first year, $37K second year, $10K third year (appx and other funds toward the campaigns were received from LCIVCB and GPD the first and second year). Total sales tax collected to fund public services from our businesses over that same 3 year period is significant. As a percent of the overall budget it ranged from .001 to .0007. If we want to remain totally reliant on the business community to generate our sources of revenue than an investment by the Village in support of that goal is critical. Many of our smaller businesses struggled during the downturn in the economy and could not afford marketing or advertising and with the Village offering a low cost opportunity it helped. The Village has to be proactive in supporting and protecting our primary sources of revenue to fund public services. We also want to promote and encourage shopping local which has even greater benefit than just the immediate sales tax boost. It also sends an important message to existing businesses and new businesses considering locating in the Village that we do support them. The campaign continues to evolve and with the changes we made this year we are finding a higher response rate moving away from traditional marketing toward relationship-oriented management. It was the right thing to do to promote ourselves as a destination for shopping and dining when consumers had fewer dollars and more choices to make sure Gurnee was front and center plus it protected our primary source of tax revenue.

In these tight economic times, municipal budgets have to be prioritized. Where, if anywhere, could the current budget be trimmed? Conversely, is there something that should be reinstated or have resources directed toward?

There isn't a day that myself and staff don't trim just to offset the increased costs that are outside our control. I have reduced our workforce every year for the last 4 budgets. I've consolidate positions and postponed capital purchases and improvements. I will continue to do what is necessary to contain and reduce costs without sacrificing service or response times. Each year I have focused on one department to make significant improvements (either technology or equipment) to make sure that our service and employees don't fall behind. Managing expenses is a daily activity and I have to make those tough choices every day - again without sacrificing services. The departments have never exceeded their budgets through constant trimming which allows us to continue to fund some capital improvement each year and maintain strong reserves. Seventy percent of the General Fund is personnel costs so that is the only place to make cuts that would have a significant and noticeable difference in the size of the budget. There are service reductions that could be considered but most are not palatable to the residents when discussed and would raise other costs or do damage to the community in general. The most important thing to our residents is they don't want a property tax and see the consumer-driven revenue sources as a fair way to fund services especially since a large percentage is generated by people outside our borders. We do measure programs and services for cost-effectiveness and make changes year to year based on responses from residents. We tightly manage the costs that are within our control and look for savings on the costs that aren't. Residents are not shy about letting the Village know what matters most so we craft the budget accordingly.

What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?

More Village-sponsored community fairs, events and festivals. I hear that from residents consistently that they would like more things to do together as a community on a large scale. I've got a few ideas but it takes funding and lots of volunteers to add more events. There are some new events we are planning over the next few years that will move us in the right direction without a strain on or diverting revenue from other areas.

Talking with your friends and neighbors, what seems to be their biggest public safety concern? Explain the concern as you see it, and discuss how you think it should be addressed.

Traffic enforcement (speeding, red light running) and crimes of opportunity. Technology has allowed us to adjust our patrols to be more visible and increased patrol time, we have been proactive about public awareness campaigns to address crimes of opportunity, we have stepped up our Neighborhood Watch outreach and continually reinforce community policing programs. Database management and analysis has led to strategic patrol duties to prevent crime in our neighborhoods. Engineering and police have worked together to address several traffic enforcement challenges in the neighborhoods. It is and will remain a continuous challenge and staff and I work together to address it. We have several new programs planned for next year and always plan ahead to proactively stay as many steps ahead as we can. I've created a work environment that encourages the staff to speak up and bring forward ideas that will improve our services or the delivery of services and teamwork has made a huge difference in coming up with solutions and getting them implemented.