Gurnee mayoral candidates Kovarik and Morris differ on budgeting

Updated 2/18/2013 4:47 PM
  • Incumbent Kristina Kovarik, left, and Trustee Kirk Morris are running for Gurnee mayor in the April 9 election.

    Incumbent Kristina Kovarik, left, and Trustee Kirk Morris are running for Gurnee mayor in the April 9 election.

Gurnee's two mayoral candidates have differing perspectives on how budgeting is done for village departments, adding to the list of their disagreements on the issues.

Beyond village government budgeting, Mayor Kristina Kovarik and her challenger, Trustee Kirk Morris, have opposing ideas on a village marketing campaign, red-light cameras and term limits for elected officials.

Voters will decide on Kovarik and Morris in the April 9 election. Both candidates shared their views on the issues in a Daily Herald editorial board endorsement interview and on questionnaires.

Kovarik, a former Gurnee trustee elected to her first 4-year term as mayor in 2005, said she and village employees will continue constantly seeking to offset increased costs that are outside of their control. She said managing expenses has been a daily activity for the village in the eight years she's been mayor, with moves including job consolidation and postponement of capital improvements and purchases.

"The departments have never exceeded their budgets through constant trimming, which allows us to continue to fund some capital improvements each year and maintain strong reserves," Kovarik said.

But Morris, who was unsuccessful when he ran in a Republican congressional primary in 2008, said Gurnee's overall budget continues to increase each year. If elected mayor, Morris said, he would push to enact 15 percent across-the-board budget cuts, and instituting hiring and wage freezes while directing more financial resources to public safety.

"Gurnee's budget system is backward," said Morris, who was elected as a village trustee in 2009. "Instead of village departments proposing their wish lists and then adjusting the revenues to satisfy those requests, the village needs to set a budgetary dollar amount for each department and direct the qualified department heads to determine how best to allocate those limited resources."

On other issues, Kovarik said she believes the "Gurnee's Got It!" marketing campaign has helped village businesses, while Morris said he'd look to end it because there is no documented evidence it's worked. Morris contends the village has spent $140,000 on the program over three years, but Kovarik said the total is $67,000.

Kovarik said Gurnee's red-light cameras have improved intersection safety and should remain in place, but Morris believes they are bad for business in a tourism-oriented village and that a three-year contract for the devices should be allowed to expire so they go away.

Morris said he would push for a limit of two, 4-year terms for Gurnee's the elected posts of mayor and trustee. Kovarik said she's never favored term limits at any level.

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