Schaumburg trustee candidates debate 5 percent budget cut
The six candidates seeking three available Schaumburg village trustee seats on April 2 have differing views on one slate's plan for a 5 percent across-the-board cut in spending except for fire and police services.
The idea is proposed by trustee candidates Dhitu Bhagwakar and Rocco Terranova, who are running on a slate with mayoral candidate Nafees Rahman.
But the plan has received criticism from incumbents George Dunham and Mark Madej, current zoning board member Brian Bieschke and newcomer Scott Felgenhauer, the latter of whom is running independently of anyone else's campaign.
Terranova said a big part of what inspired him to run was seeing the village's debt listed at $528.5 million by the Cook County Treasurer's office. He also expressed concern by his finding that the average Schaumburg employee is paid about $128,000 per year, which he sees as out of line with surrounding communities.
Terranova emphasized, however, that the priority of safety excludes the police and fire department from his slate's proposed cuts.
Bhagwakar added that such things as what he saw as a $100,000 loss last year at Schaumburg Boomers Stadium also deserved looking into.
Bieschke, who is running as a team with Dunham, Madej and mayoral candidate Tom Dailly, disagreed with Terranova's assessment of the village's debt. He put the part of the debt the village board controls -- excluding pensions and benefits -- at just under $300 million.
Furthermore, Bieschke said Schaumburg's AAA bond rating means the rating agencies aren't concerned by either the village's debt or its ability to pay it.
Dunham said the village is considerably ahead of many other suburbs on paying its pension obligations and theorized that Terranova and Bhagwakar's interpretation of the Cook County Treasurer's data was based on their unfamiliarity with Schaumburg's own careful budgeting process.
Madej said the village's expenses have gone up 13.3 percent in the past five years -- a product of the overall increase in the cost of living -- but that revenues had increased 19.5 percent. As long as that balance stays in the village's favor, he added, there's no reason for Schaumburg not to maintain the higher quality of its services.
Madej also addressed Bhagwakar's point about Boomers Stadium. He said that while the baseball team pays rent, the village and Schaumburg Park District that co-own the stadium share the cost of routine maintenance which last year included the safety enhancement of extending the netting that protects fans from foul balls.
Felgenhauer said he agreed that a $70,000 investment in such a feature justified avoiding a $1 million lawsuit. He further stated that while the fine points of the village's spending should always be watched by the board, he didn't see any reason for a drastic cut in the very services that instill pride in Schaumburg residents.
Even the village's own modest percentage of the property tax bill isn't a likely make-or-break factor in people's ability to live there when compared with the quality of life they enjoy, Felgenhauer added.
The trustee candidates will meet at two forums on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 23 -- first at one hosted by the Schaumburg Township Republican Organization at 8:15 a.m. at Chandler's Chophouse, 401 N. Roselle Road in Schaumburg, and then at another hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Palatine Area at 10:30 a.m. at Spring Valley Nature Center, 1111 E. Schaumburg Road in Schaumburg.
The latter forum will be followed at 11:45 a.m. by one for the three mayoral candidates, including Matthew Steward who is running independently of any team or slate.