How Kane County Board candidates would deal with budget shortfall
With a budget shortfall projected at about $14 million, the Kane County Board faces a major financial challenge.
The pandemic is to blame for a large portion of the deficit, but the board already was looking at a more than $4 million hole before the outbreak.
Though the county has received federal coronavirus relief funds to help offset some of deficit, and is expected to produce a balanced balance for 2020-21, other adjustments likely will be needed to address financial uncertainties because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here's a rundown of ideas county board candidates in the Nov. 3 election have offered to address the problem.
Democrat Mavis Bates of Aurora, who calls the environment one or her main passions, says sustainability is one way to cut costs. Along with water conservation, she said, "We can use more renewable energy and energy efficiency to save money."
Republican Tracy Miller of Aurora says her intent is to balance the budget without a tax increase. She suggests a moratorium on hiring in the short-term and consolidation of local government agencies in the long-term.
Republican David Brown of Batavia says "board discussions should include any opportunities for consolidation by analyzing efficiencies and cost savings." He puts public safety at the top of the spending priority list.
Democrat Mary Kay Crantz of North Aurora emphasized the budget shouldn't be a partisan issue, "though the current leadership has made it so." She emphasizes possible new revenue from marijuana sales and prioritizing spending on public safety.
Democrat Ruth Kuzmanic of St. Charles said the priority will be to continue providing services while "staying within our means." Republican Kenneth Shepro of St. Charles pointed out the new board will have little initial impact on the county budget for the next fiscal year, with the current board adopting a budget in October or November.
Republican incumbent Mark Davoust of St. Charles stresses the budget shortfall comes from decreased revenue and not increased spending, which reflects the job the board has done in not spending wastefully. He doesn't want to see a graduated income tax in Illinois because he thinks it would hurt small businesses.
William Bachman, a Democrat from St. Charles, sees the projected shortfall shrinking if citizens do their part in fighting the pandemic to allow businesses to reopen fully. He's also hopeful more federal money will trickle to the county level and thinks passage of the graduated income tax in Illinois would raise needed revenue.
Republican incumbent Mike Kenyon of South Elgin believes the recovery of county businesses is crucial to overcoming the budget crisis caused by the pandemic. He favors releasing more of the allotted federal stimulus money to local businesses.
Megan Larson, a Democrat from South Elgin, wants to see businesses boosted to generate revenue so homeowners don't suffer additional tax burdens. She believes the county should wisely invest in technology to streamline services.
Drew Frasz, the Republican incumbent from Elburn, said they'll have to prioritize needs and "what level of services we can provide for the funds available."
Democrat Sandy Kaczmarski of Elburn thinks the county could find new revenue by allowing marijuana dispensaries and cultivators in unincorporated areas. She also suggested "finding renewable energy sources to reduce costs and ensure that future growth is 'green' to protect our natural resources."
Lucio Estrada, a Republican from Elgin, plans to continue the board's goal of freezing property taxes while maintaining a balanced budget. Because significant infrastructure investments already have occurred, the county will continue to benefit from the efficiency of services.
With the health and care of residents a priority because of the pandemic, Elgin Democrat Cherryl Fritz Strathmann doesn't think now is the time to demand a balanced budget. Instead of looking at salary cuts, she'd prefer the county look at adding revenue through marijuana dispensaries.
Incumbent Douglas Scheflow, a Republican from Elgin, looks at the county's cash reserves as a way to address part of the budget shortfall. Money can be saved through a hiring freeze and staffing can be reduced at places like the courthouse, where virtual hearings have reduced the need for staff to be in attendance.
Democrat Verner Tepe of Elgin believes a hiring freeze and a freeze on raises and promotions will be necessary to maintain essential county services, but a priority should be placed on keeping existing personnel. He'd be in favor of delaying equipment purchases and working with department heads to determine what budget cuts can be made.
Democratic incumbent Jarret Sanchez of Carpentersville believes stimulus money from the CARES Act will help plug some holes in the budget. But in lieu of the money tied to mandated funding, he also recognizes the financial "jiu jitsu" the current board and finance team is enduring.
Roberta Andresen, a Carpentersville Republican, aims to prioritize funding for the sheriff's office, fire districts, the health department and others on the "front line" of the fight against COVID-19. She feels working remotely with better technology would decrease overhead expenses.