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posted: 3/15/2013 6:45 PM

Elgin candidates discuss city's spending

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  • Thomas Armstrong

      Thomas Armstrong

  • Andrew Cuming

      Andrew Cuming

  • Richard Dunne

      Richard Dunne

  • Mitchell Esterino

      Mitchell Esterino

  • Terry Gavin

      Terry Gavin

  • Robert Gilliam

      Robert Gilliam

  • Cody Holt

      Cody Holt

  • Rosemarie Kahn

      Rosemarie Kahn

  • Stephen Knight

      Stephen Knight

  • Jerri McCue

      Jerri McCue

  • John Prigge

      John Prigge

  • Grace Richard

      Grace Richard

  • Carol Rauschenberger

      Carol Rauschenberger

 
 

Candidates in the race for four, 4-year seats on the Elgin City Council have divergent views on how the city spends money, ranging from giving it a thumbs-up to decrying its choices.

Thirteen candidates, including three incumbents, are in that race. Two other candidates are vying for a two-year seat.

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Incumbent John Prigge, 54, said the city spent money unnecessarily for a dog park in Hoffman Estates and to rehab the Eastside Recreation Center. Prigge was elected in 2009. He works as an auctioneer and appraiser.

"We never downshifted spending," Prigge said. "We're funding some nonprofits like when the boat (Grand Victoria Casino) was giving us $1 million per month."

Sometimes it's just about keeping an eye on small expenses that add up over time, said challenger Rosemarie Kahn, 45, an IT associate manager.

For example, a vote last year to sponsor field trips for school kids to the Hawthorne Hill Nature Center included $75 for transportation that should have been provided by the school district, she said. Only one council member objected to that, she said.

"It doesn't seem like it's a healthy mix of views on the council," she said.

Challenger Carol Rauschenberger, 60, said called the Eastside rec center "a want, not a need."

The city could hold also back on some beautification projects, said Rauschenberger, who serves as an Elgin Township trustee and works as an occupational therapist.

"We all need to share the pain. That's across the country, and I think you start at home," she said.

Challenger Jerri McCue, 58, a registered nurse, pointed out that some of the brickwork done downtown came from money from a special taxing district.

While the Eastside rec center is important to the residents it serves, the city must keep an eye on things like construction change-orders, she said.

Challenger Terry Gavin, 58, who served on the council from 1995 to 1999, pointed out both the rec center and The Centre downtown are losing money.

"Everything the city does is not bad, but I think they need to look at cutting in areas (related to) parks and recreation, or making it more efficient," he said. He also said a proposed stormwater utility tax would drive businesses away.

Incumbent Richard Dunne, 50, who was elected in 2009, said he did not support receiving the grant money -- which the city had to contribute to -- for the rec center.

"I would have liked to see the money spent differently. The building is a poor structure, the land is a poor site," he said.

Dunne said he supports studying a possible stormwater utility tax, but wants to see its results before moving forward.

Challenger Grace Richard, 62, a business development director, said all expenses are relative. "If you own a dog, you don't have problem with dog park, but I don't own a dog," she said.

The city should reduce its budget according to revenue decreases, but should also make the budget process more transparent, she said.

Challenger Steven Knight, 60, who works at Home Depot, said the city doesn't spend unnecessarily, though in hindsight it perhaps shouldn't have purchased the rec center. Still, a city of 100,000 people needs two rec centers, he said.

"The public needs to be more involved in directing council where we spent the funds," he said.

Challenger Cody Holt, 21, who works in retail, said the city should close the Eastside Rec Center.

The city council puts the needs of the community ahead of the needs of individuals, he said.

Challenger Mitchell Esterino, 57, a sales manager, said he thought the city's doing a good job of managing expenses, and touted its AAA bond rating.

"Overall I'm fairly happy with the way things are. Nobody likes taxes, we need to keep that low but need to keep core services," he said. The garbage collection should have stayed on property tax bills so residents could deduct that from their tax returns, he said.

Challenger Tom Armstrong, 57, a retired city planner, said he was "pretty satisfied" with the actions of the city council in recent years. Armstrong took a buyout during staff cuts in 2009.

The city would have spend three times as much as it did to develop its own dog park, he pointed out. The Eastside Rec Center is just a case of hindsight.

Challenger Andrew Cuming, 26, agreed. "If we are able to reduce taxes and fees, more businesses will come in," said Cuming, a web designer.

He also said the council should have let the Jaycees organize the Fourth of July fireworks in town at no cost to the city. Last year, Elgin joined Northwest Fourth-Fest, a collaborative effort between Elgin, Hanover Park, Hanover Township and Hoffman Estates, at the Sears Centre.

As for the dog park, "All we're doing is subsidizing a few hundred citizens who are using that," he said.

Longtime incumbent Robert Gilliam, 67, a retired educator, defended the council's choices, saying it dealt efficiently with the recent economic crisis that faced the nation. He was first elected in 1973.

"We had a combination of increased revenues and cuts, and we did both," Gilliam said. "It's easy to say 'cut,' but you have to be responsible enough to say, 'How do I pay for those services I just cut revenues for?" he said.

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