Kenneth C. Shepro: 2022 candidate for Kane County Board Distrct 12
Occupation: Attorney and counselor at law, 45 years
Previous offices held: Current Kane County Board member; Kane County Regional Planning Commission, 1992-2012; Special Assistant State's Attorney, 1998-2021; 2020; County Board attorney, 2004-2012; Wayne Village Attorney, 1988-1998
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? *
A. I am seeking a second two year term to continue my advocacy for a balanced budget focusing on cost effective delivery of mandated services to our constituents. I am greatly concerned over the County's failure to offer competitive salaries to our employees and the increasing resulting loss of irreplaceable experience. At the same time I have spoken out strongly against new and increased taxes when inflation is at a 40 year high, gas pump prices have skyrocketed, and many of our residents have seen their home heating bill double.
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. Despite being elected to the board for the first time in 2020, I was honored to be chosen unanimously by my 23 colleagues as the board's vice chairman. My 8 years as the county board's attorney, 20 years on the Regional Planning Commission and experience in local government law allowed me to have an immediate impact on the deliberations of the Board. My most significant initiative was leadership in the decennial reapportionment of the Board's 24 districts assuring a fair map to all. As a member of the Public Health Committee, I helped reverse the staff's ill-advised decision to prematurely shut down the Batavia mass vaccination site. My advocacy for the County's fire protection districts resulted in significant CARES Act funds were reallocated to those first responders and not just to municipal fire departments.
Q. Describe your position regarding the balance between county spending and revenues as it exists today, then describe the chief threats you see looming and how the county should deal with them.
A. While the County's anticipated $15 million budget deficit for the 2021 FY suddenly vanished as final revenues are being revised, the projected FY 2022 deficit of $13-15 million remains. Virtually all of the County's union contracts expired last Nov. 30, and the 2% wage increases assumed in the current budget are clearly unrealistic in light of the highest inflation rate in 40 years, soaring energy costs, perhaps most ominously, the mandates imposed on local government judicial and public safety entities by the so called "reforms" enacted by the General Assembly. Our State's Attorney's recent estimate of the costs of compliance approach $26 million, and she and Sheriff Hain have warned that the full cost cannot be realistically determined. The current administration's proposal; for a new County sales tax, even if approved by the voters, does not begin to address these costs.
Q. How do you rate the county government on transparency and the public's access to records? If it's adequate, explain why. If you think improvements are needed, delineate them.
A. The American Policy Institute has awarded Kane County its Sunshine Award as one of a very few local governments to achieve a 100% transparency. But there remain many opportunities for improvement. Financial information, while detailed, needs to be updated more frequently. Budget and financial information, while detailed, is often hard to find on the County's website and difficult to follow. The average citizen should not need a degree in accounting in order to determine the budget shortfall. The terms of union contracts are almost impossible to find. Too often, FOIA requests are demanded for information that should be available as a matter of course. But there are bright spots. The Supervisor of Assessments website is easy to understand and to navigate. The County Clerk's Election pages are full of detail on present and past elections and are updated frequently.
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 support the initiatives of the judiciary to continue "Zoom" court hearings even after the COVID-19 pandemic has begun to recede. A citizen should not have to take a day off work and drive to Geneva for what ids often a court hearing of only a few minutes. Attorneys often devote half a day to a routine status hearing. County Board meetings, held during the workday, are now much more accessible to the public through web resources. More routine County business should be able to be transacted via the internet rather than in person at a government office. At the same time we need to improve the quality and visibility of the Zoom meetings, and remember that senior citizens and the technologically challenged must also have their needs addressed.