Back to Wheeling Village Board
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.
Website: Candidate did not respond.
Twitter: Candidate did not respond.
Facebook: Mary Papantos Wheeling Trustee
Family: Son Matthew (35), Daughter Katie (35), Son-in-Law Michael (34)
Occupation: Candidate did not respond.
Education: BS Biology
MBA with an emphasis in Management
Civic involvement: Treasurer: Wheeling Pavilion Senior Foundation (WPSF)
Member: Citizens Against Runway Expansion (CARE)
Elected offices held: Village of Wheeling Trustee (appointed February, 2016)
What makes you the best candidate for the job?
I review all issues in the Village of Wheeling, communicate and listen to fellow board members and residents to determine their opinions regarding any upcoming expenditures, new ordinances or new developments. Listening to as many diverse opinions on all issues helps me realize how decisions made by the board affect all Village residents. I am adamantly opposed to any expansion of runways at Chicago Executive Airport (CEA). I don't want to see TIF dollars used to displace homeowners around the airport but would like to see business expand around CEA. I am a fiscal conservative and want to make sure that tax dollars are spent for the good of the community overall. I grew up in this community and chose to raise my children here. I have watched Wheeling grow over the years and want to see that growth continue without infringing on the rights and amenities that current and future residents have.
Some things that I would like to see are more family entertainment areas (movie theaters, bowling alleys, bike paths away from traffic, community theater groups, etc.) I think I can provide some different ideas for making Wheeling an even better place to live than it already is. I enjoy working with all other Trustees and want to work with the different taxing bodies in Wheeling to realize these goals.
What is your opinion of your community's present level of local sales and property taxes? Is the tax just right, too low or too high? Explain.
Wheeling sits right on the border of Lake County (in fact a small portion of Wheeling is in Lake County) so we have to compete with lower sales tax "just down the road". Our current sales tax rate is competitive with other Cook County municipalities. I would be against any increase in the current rate, but would not suggest lowering it at this time.
The 2015 tax levy for Wheeling went up 10.5% from 2014. This increase was due to lower increases in previous years that were compensated for by not fully contributing to all funds such as CERF. Like most taxpayers, I would have preferred to not have such a large increase, but we needed to get back on track so as not to deplete the General Fund reserves below 25%. The 2016 increase was 5% which, in my opinion, was much more tolerable for the majority of taxpayers. By working with staff (especially the Finance department)the Board needs to look at a 5 year plan to determine a level of increases that will meet expected needs without causing hardship for residents and businesses. The Wheeling share of our property tax bill is approximately 13%. In my opinion, that amount provides a remarkable amount of core services for a small percentage of our tax bills. We also have to be careful to hold various fees and taxes (water rates, utility taxes, phone taxes, food and drink taxes) to a reasonable level.
Rate the efficiency of your town's police and fire coverage. Are the departments well prepared for the next decade? What, if anything, should be changed? Do you have specific public safety concerns?
I have only needed emergency response from fire/paramedic on one occasion and never for police. The paramedic response was immediate and their care was nothing short of excellent. From reports delivered at VOW meetings I know the police department is operating below suggested staffing levels yet I have not heard reports of lack of necessary police coverage due to this shortage. This means to me that the department must be operating at a high rate of efficiency. As the Village grows it is important that safety departments grow proportionately. As Wheeling residential areas grow in TIF districts we as a Board must consider how we will fund expansions for public safety since property taxes in TIF districts go back to the TIF, funds are not available for additional public safety staffing.
Wheeling is divided into an East and West side by the railroad tracks that cross Dundee and Hintz Roads. During rush hours there can be a significant delay for emergency vehicles going from one side of town to the other. Discussion about a new fire station located west of the railroad tracks should continue. Adequate staffing and equipment is necessary to ensure the safety of all residents.
The Police Department does an excellent job in controlling gang activities and educating the public.
The Village board has addressed the issue of lack of pedestrian crosswalks across major Village roads (especially Dundee and Milwaukee). Contact with state agencies has yielded little success.
Where, if anywhere, could the current budget be trimmed, and conversely, are there areas the budget does not give enough money to?
The Village of Wheeling has joined the Chicago North Shore Convention and Visitors Bureau (CNSCVB). There currently is no definitive way to measure the success of enrollment in this agency or how much additional revenue is expected to be generated due to joining the CNSCVB. Yearly dues is $81,075. We must continually evaluate this program and ask if this is the best way to spend tax dollars. Conversely, when the 2008 recession hit the Village found it necessary to reduce staffing levels as much as possible. I feel we have done an excellent job in maintaining core services, however it is probably time to reevaluate all departments and determine if extra manpower is needed. Specifically I think we should look at Community Development and analyze if there is sufficient staff to perform code enforcement duties. If not we should consider part time help.
What is one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
We have grown quiet about development and beautification on the west side of town. For years various Village Boards have recognized the need to do something about the vacant K-Mart property, numerous vacancies in Dunhurst Plaza and general beautification efforts between Northgate Parkway and Schoenbeck Road. We need to re-open those discussions, get resident input and work with the County, State and Federal government to obtain grant funds to better our community. We should continue the excellent work that has been started in the Town Center TIF district to make our community more appealing to visitors and commuters.
Restaurant Row is a major attraction for Wheeling. It is time to re-open discussions about a River Walk.
I would like to work with other taxing bodies to co-sponsor events to bring residents together, especially new residents. Wheeling is growing, we need to engage all residents and work to meet everyone's needs.
What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?
The most obvious issue is what will happen with the State of Illinois budget. If a property tax freeze is implemented and/or a cut to the Local Government Distributive Fund (LGDF) the budget of the Village of Wheeling, as well all other taxing bodies in the surrounding area, will be adversely affected. Because Wheeling has been conservative in the past years the reserve fund will help carry us through an unexpected loss in revenue, however that would be a very short solution that would result in significantly higher tax levys when the freeze/cut is suspended. Sudden spikes in levys hurt homeowners/businesses more than steady, manageable increases.
I am also very concerned about unfunded state mandates. A current buzzword/phrase is "consolidation of government entities/services". I do believe in economies of scale, however consolidation without adequate review can result in unexpected expenditures. For instance, when the Old Town Sanitary District was disbanded and the service incorporated into Prospect Heights, Wheeling, Arlington Heights and Mount Prospect, there was no consideration as to how the unfunded pension liability would be handled. Towns had to scramble to bill for service and to cover costs that had not been budgeted for.
Cook County requirements regarding minimum wage/sicktime as well as the beverage tax that will go into affect in July of 2017 may have an adverse affect on local businesses. Bringing business and residents into our town is important, high tax rates and government mandates can hinder that effort.
Please name one current leader who most inspires you.
Pope Francis. This man has reached millions of Catholics and world leaders and is starting to change the old-world views of the Catholic church.
What is the biggest lesson you learned at home growing up?
Treat others how you want to be treated. Be honest and work hard, there is no such thing as a free lunch.
If life gave you one do-over, what would you spend it on?
Nothing. I haven't always been happy with all my decisions, I learn from them and use any mistakes to change my behavior in the future.
What was your favorite subject in school and how did it help you in later life?
Both Math and History. Math gives a definitive answer to a problem and History lets us see how the past has shaped the present.
If you could give your children only one piece of advice, what would it be?
Follow your dreams and don't let anything stop you. My children are 35 years old and always make me proud.