William K. Bachman: Candidate profile, Kane County Board District 14
Democrat William K. Bachman of St. Charles is challenging incumbent Republican Mark Davoust of St. Charles for Kane County Board District 14 in the Nov. 3 general election.
Bachman, a certified public accountant, currently works as principal systems engineer.
To explore his campaign website, visit bachmankcboard.com.
The 14th district includes parts of South Elgin and northwest St. Charles. For a map of the district, visit www.countyofkane.org.
The Daily Herald recently asked the candidates to answer a series of questions. Here are Bachman's replies.
For complete election coverage, visit www.dailyherald.com and click on "Election Central."
Q. Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election for the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you? If so, what?
A. What has driven my candidacy is the need to reduce the partisan nature of the political process. Once elected, politicians should represent all residents regardless of party affiliation or support received from donors. A part of good government, and a primary issue that motivates me, is ensuring that constituents have a voice in the process. Speaking with residents, there is a sense of frustration over the lack of engagement. Communications with residents should be an ongoing, open conduit. Too often, elected officials merely place large signs and send mailers just prior to the election and residents are forgotten until it is time to pander for their votes again. This lack of constituent engagement is wholly inadequate and it must change.
Q. If you are an incumbent, describe your main contributions. Tell us of any important initiatives you've led. If you are a challenger, what would you bring to the board and what would your priority be?
A. What I would bring to the board is 30-plus years of public service, financial and analytical experience, and a strong desire for effective government performance. I am a licensed CPA (MD) but for the last eight years have been employed as a principal system engineer in the transportation sector. My priority, besides the aforementioned inclusion of more effective community outreach, is to ensure tax dollars are effectively utilized. No one enjoys paying taxes, but they are required to pay for services and capital expenditures rendered on the county residents behalf. We can and should have an open, transparent discussion on the services provided by the county and the adequacy of these services. This requires consideration of resident input as we are working on their behalf!
Q. Describe your position regarding the balance between county spending and revenues as it exists today, then describe the chief threats you see looming in the future and how the county should deal with them. In particular in the suburbs, Cook County President Preckwinkle has set a goal of eliminating unincorporated areas from county oversight. Do you agree with this approach? If so, how should the county go about it?
A. Per the Finance Committee's 2021 General Fund Budget Update, dated Aug. 26, 2020, Kane County faces a $14,565,176 budget gap with forecast revenue of $82,494,284 and expenditures of $97,059,460. The 2021 revenue is projected to be $10,203,379 less than 2020. The largest driver for this reduction is the effects on economic activity related to COVID-19.
My position on this is obviously that it is a difficult period financially for the county and residents. The chief threat for the future is a continuing reduction of economic activity due to the pandemic response. The county must continue on its path to safely fully open local businesses. I urge everyone to please consider their part in this as we need to defeat this virus.
Other upcoming threats include water supply issues and the ongoing effects of climate change, however as important as these issues are, they pale in comparison to our more immediate concern. As to Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle's goal to eliminate unincorporated areas from county oversight, I am against this approach.
Q. How do you rate the county government on transparency and the public's access to records? If you consider it adequate, please explain why. If you think improvements are needed, please describe them and why they are important
A. I would rate the county government as fair to good on transparency and the public access to records as good. The various county government departments and committees do a good job in providing citizens with clear information of their actions to maintain transparency. The records generated are readily available on the county website. Where transparency was only fair is based on the lack of outreach on issues by some board members, including this district. While board members are elected to represent a district, how can they effectively and transparently accomplish that task without communication?
If elected, I plan to hold monthly online and in-person meetings to allow residents to understand county issues affecting them and solicit their input. Information will also be supplied online so that it can be reviewed and feedback can be provided 24/7. Elected officials work for their constituents ... constituent input is a necessity for effective representation!
Q. What, if anything, should be done to improve automation and customer service in county offices? What steps should be taken to make that happen?
A. I think that the IT department in Kane County government does a great job and is striving to utilize automation where it results in efficiencies while being cost effective. An area related to automation is big data and data analytics. The board should ensure county employees have access to training and analytical tools where it is beneficial for their job requirements. Minor training expenditures could lead to future reduced expenses and better decision-making overall for the county.
Customer service has been outstanding in my interactions with county offices. While county employees have great customer service skills, the board and department heads should work to ensure better continuation of services during abnormal events. The current pandemic, while devastating to our community in many ways, was a foreseeable event that has been discussed nationally and internationally for many years. It was not a question of if, but when. There should be a county and regional review, post-pandemic, of potential abnormal events and learned lessons to better prepare.
Q. The county board will undergo redistricting following the 2020 Census. What is the most fair process? Do you support the current number of seats on the board?
A. Partisan gerrymandering of districts throughout our nation has a negative impact on voting rights with the effects felt beyond the gerrymandered districts. The fairest way to redistrict Kane County would be to allow an independent, unbiased, entity, using automation to handle the process, to fairly define the districts with a requirement to minimize the number of points/sides for each individual district.
I do not support the current number of board members. While Kane County is allowed to have the current number, an Illinois statute mandates that counties with more than 800,000 residents are limited to 18. Kane County, with a population of 536,336 has 24 members at an annual cost of approximately $25,000 to $46,0000 per member depending on benefits. Reducing the number to 18 would save approximately $1.5 million to $2.8 million over 10 years. This has been proposed previously and it is regrettable that current board members have not acted to reduce expenditures.
Q. Do you support the current salary and benefits structure for the county board?
A. The county board salary structure is supported but may need to be slightly modified if the board appropriately acts to reduce its size. If the board is reduced by six members, remaining members will assume a small number of additional committee assignments. The time required for these assignments will require discussion on the level of compensation, if any, for the additional duties. If warranted, my initial projection on maximum additional salary is approximately $1,250 per year. This increase would be more than offset by the savings of just one of the eliminated positions.
I do not support the benefits structure of the county board. Board members are afforded full-time health benefits at county expense despite it being a part-time job. I find it unconscionable that we have residents paying too much for health insurance, often with inadequate benefits, or lack it entirely being forced to pay for this benefit for part-time employees. Board members taking this benefit already have health insurance through other means, such as employment, Medicare, etc., or the ability to obtain it.
Q. What actions must the county take to continue to address COVID-19?
A. COVID-19 has created numerous problems for county residents, be it related to actual illness, impacts from business and school closures, stay-at-home mandates, or other issues. The county must continue to work with state officials to ensure a coordinated response and reopening activities continue to proceed in a responsible and safe manner. It is very important to continue being safe as we move forward responsibly. Other actions that the county should take include continuing their work in regards to dispersing monies received under the CARES Act. In addition, the economic slowdown and societal restrictions still are impacting many families. Additional support to organizations providing mental health services, food and other necessity assistance should be considered.
Q. The new board will take over during a time of unprecedented budget challenges. What is your plan to balance the budget? What will your spending priorities be?
A. The budget challenges facing Kane County are significant but still fluid as the scope of the challenges will not be clearly defined until after the election. The current federal administration has been resistant to provide additional assistance to state/local governments despite the efforts of our representatives and senators. Additionally, if the IL Fair Tax passes, additional funding may become available at the county level. Lastly, financial revenue projections may improve if local businesses can fully reopen faster than assumed, but is dependent on the continuing pandemic battle. There should be greater clarity on these items by the time new board members take office.
The Emergency Reserve is one source for any remaining budget shortfall. My spending priorities will be determined after consultation and input from my constituents. It is not about my views but theirs! One item I would like considered is the hiring of a county administrator. Having an administrator would provide trained, professional expertise in the day to day operation of administrative offices and would be beneficial. Funding could come from the board size reduction.