Tax relief, transparency key issues for Lake Co. Board hopefuls Brown, Simpson
Candidates hoping to represent the 18th District on the Lake County Board say they while their influence is limited, they will do what they can to hold the line on property taxes.
Republican Karimar "Keri" Brown and Democrat Julie Simpson, both of Vernon Hills, also say more transparency regarding financial information and county board dealings will benefit residents.
Brown was slated in August to run as the GOP candidate in the 18th District, filling the spot of county board Chairman Aaron Lawlor, who is on indefinite leave from his duties and not seeking re-election. Brown, a business owner and community volunteer, also was appointed last month to fill a vacant seat on the Vernon Hills village board.
Simpson was elected to the Hawthorn Elementary District 73 school board in 2017 and is serving a four-year term.
She said Lake County has become unaffordable for many residents, making property tax relief the top issue in the 18th District. The county and forest preserve district account for about 10 percent of a typical tax bill, she noted, adding that school funding reform is the only way to make a real difference.
"It's important to know what we can and can't do. Our priority should be things that we can do and not what we can't do," she said of the county board.
For example, county board members' use of credit cards, known as p-cards, can be stopped and the accompanying $7,000 "self-promotion" allowance immediately cut, Simpson said. Expenses instead can be submitted for approval "just like any other expenditure of taxpayer money," she said.
Simpson also advocates for videotaping county board committee meetings, particularly the finance committee, so constituents can be better informed.
"I'm here and ready to focus on what we can do to improve transparency, improve ethics (and) give the taxpayers a little bit of a break in what we can do," she said.
Brown said property tax relief and maintaining county services without raising taxes is the biggest need in the district.
"It's 10 percent (of the tax bill) we can control. I think we can be more efficient with that, too," she said. Brown said local governments should work together in areas such as buying in bulk to save money.
Taxpayers should have easy access to the county's financial information, she added.
"I want to make sure transparency is not an issue, that it's easy for constituents to go online and see what's happening with their money," she said.
She suggested county board members have a fixed account that only be used for specific categories, such as postage for government mailings or per diems, with expenditures to be reviewed monthly.
"If you have $50 to spend on dinner and you spend $100, I'm sorry you're going to have to owe $50 of your own money because that's just the way it is," she said.
The 18th District includes Vernon Hills and Indian Creek, as well as portions of Hawthorn Woods, Long Grove, Mundelein and unincorporated Lake County. County board members also serve as Lake County Forest Preserve District commissioners.