Board chairman candidates: DuPage shouldn't increase property taxes
Despite rising costs and cuts in state funding, both candidates in the race for county board chairman are opposed to boosting DuPage's property tax levy.
Republican incumbent Dan Cronin and Democratic challenger Lynn LaPlante will face off Nov. 6 in the race to decide who will lead the county board for the next four years. One issue the winner inevitably will face is how long the county government can go without increasing property taxes.
County board members are reviewing a spending proposal for fiscal 2019 that would keep the property tax levy flat at $66.9 million. It's unlikely the levy will be changed before the proposed $433.8 million budget takes effect Dec. 1.
Officials admit it's going to be difficult to balance future budgets for fiscal 2020 and beyond. Meanwhile, the county's property tax levy has remained virtually flat over the past decade.
Still, LaPlante rejected the idea of increasing the property tax levy when asked about it during a recent endorsement session with the Daily Herald.
"We can't increase property taxes," said LaPlante, who lives in Glen Ellyn. "People are absolutely stretched to their limit. It's the number one thing that anyone wants to talk about."
Before considering a property tax hike, Cronin said he first wants to explore "other opportunities on the cost side of the balance sheet."
"I assure you that we will continue to look for ways to save and look for ways to streamline and be more efficient," said Cronin, who lives in Elmhurst.
DuPage is expected to save hundreds of thousands of dollars next year when the election commission merges with the county clerk's office. Now officials are talking about the possibility of eliminating the county recorder's office as part of an ongoing effort to consolidate and streamline local government.
Cronin said work to downsize county government must continue because of state funding cuts.
For example, Illinois earlier this year approved a 5 percent reduction in the amount of state income tax revenue municipalities and counties receive.
"I think this is the new normal," Cronin said. "They took a little bit out of our local government distributive (fund) share in Springfield. I don't think it's ever going to come back."
LaPlante, who's seeking to become the first woman elected to head the county board, said she would work to attract more businesses to DuPage.
"What I think we need to do is build a bigger tax base," LaPlante said.
"We're not drawing businesses in," she said. "If we want to reduce property taxes, we have to increase our tax base."
In addition, LaPlante said she would eliminate no-bid contracts. She argues the county could save "millions of dollars" if competitive bids were required for all government work.
She also suggests the county could save money by not using lobbyists.
Last month, the board awarded $260,000 in contracts to three firms to push the county's legislative agenda in Springfield and in Washington.
LaPlante says county board members should be the ones lobbying state and federal lawmakers. "I don't understand why the current makeup of the board is not lobbying more vociferously on behalf of DuPage County," she said.
But county board members who support the use of lobbyists argue it would be impractical, if not impossible, for them to lobby state and federal lawmakers.
Meanwhile, Cronin says the county must cultivate relationships in Springfield and in Washington.
"We have to be able to secure whatever funding sources we can that are appropriate," he said. "And we have to be able to pass reform legislation that helps us continue our mission."