Kane County District 6 Democratic hopefuls debate revenue sources
Democratic candidates for the Kane County Board District 6 seat discussed the tax levy, economic growth and transportation needs among other issues during a recent Daily Herald interview.
Incumbent Matt Hanson faces challenger Ron Ford, who previously represented the district, in the March 17 primary. Both are from Aurora.
The candidates disagreed on whether the county should consider keeping its tax levy flat -- the county's portion of the average tax bill is slightly more than 4%.
Hanson said it might be time to consider increasing the levy based on the consumer price index to pay for the rising cost of services, salaries and pensions. Ford said county officials need to think outside the box to boost revenues through economic development.
Ford, 60, a retired general contractor who previously served as parks director for Aurora, said technology will play a huge part in the county's future and officials currently are not capitalizing on the county's 55-mile fiber optic cable infrastructure.
The Kane County fiber connects municipalities, educational institutions, such as Northern Illinois University, and the I-88 and I-90 corridors.
"This fiber can be used for large businesses who actually want this fiber and need the fiber, but it's not really set up completely," Ford said. "We have missed the boat on the revenue that can come from it."
He said county officials could expand on what Aurora has done with its "smart city" plan to become a regional technology hub that could attract jobs and provide educational opportunities for low-income residents. Officials also need to focus on developing county-owned parcels similar to what Aurora has done working with developers, he added.
Ford was elected to the county board in 2008 and resigned in 2015, citing an increased workload in his business and a desire to be more active at church and spend more time with his family. Brian Dahl, a North Aurora Democrat, was appointed to the seat and then won election in 2016, but he moved out of the district and resigned in 2018. Chairman Chris Lauzen then appointed Ford to his previous seat until the November 2018 election, in which Ford ran as a write-in candidate.
Hanson, 46, who won the 2018 election to serve the last two years of Dahl's term, cited improving the district's transportation infrastructure among his priorities, specifically securing money for the Route 31 and I-88 interchange.
"Anyone that travels down east to west on the I-88 corridor has seen the different interchanges get progressively rebuilt, redesigned," he said. "And the one that's gotten left out is the one that kind of connects the two between Farnsworth and Orchard Road, which is 31."
Most constituents who live on the south end of the county care about the I-88, Farnsworth Avenue and Randall Road gateways, he said.
Hanson voted with the county board majority to impose tolls along Longmeadow Parkway -- a controversial decision.
Tolls will ensure completion of the newest Fox River bridge in the far northern portion of the county. It is set to open in 2022.
"Tolling as a mechanism to pay for the maintenance is something that frankly, I see a lot on the railroad," said Hanson, a locomotive engineer. It's been discussed as part of the conversation about a possible expansion of the Metra line toward Plano, he said.
"Building a road is expensive. But maintaining it is much more expensive. So to have a mechanism that will pay for itself, the maintenance going forward, it's a tough pill to swallow but I understand the principle behind it," he said.
The toll will be 95 cents for most vehicles crossing the Longmeadow bridge. Residents of Kane County and incorporated Algonquin can apply for a discount that would allow them to cross the bridge an unlimited number of times for a flat annual fee of $200.
Both candidates favor sunsetting the toll once construction costs are paid off.
Ford added that it's time to take advantage of increased economic development that bridge access could bring to that area.
"The outlet mall is a largest tax base in all of Kane County," he said. "(There's) no reason why we can't create more development like that at the north end, and also in the middle of the county. That's what we should be focusing on."