Deborah Allan: 2022 candidate for Kane County Board District 17
Office sought: Kane County Board District 17
Occupation: Retired office manager and professional harpist; current County Board member for District 17
Previous offices held: Kane County Board member for District 17 since December 1, 2002; Gifford Park Association Treasurer in the 1980's
Q: Do you support an increase in the countywide retail sales tax to help pay for expenses related to the SAFE T legislation? Yes/No? If yes, which SAFE T-related expenses, specifically, should be covered with the additional tax? If no, how do you suggest paying for the increased expenses related to the SAFE T legislation?
A: A County retail sales tax may be a reasonable means to raise revenue for the Safe-T Act expense, because it would be a "user fee," applicable to certain products people wish to buy, but it must be designed to not impact necessities such as food, diapers, gasoline, medicine. And it must make sense, as opposed to applying to items consumed on premises, but not on those taken off premises.
The current list of proposed expenses related to the Act range from personnel to their computers to their office space, and is too wide-ranging to expense out in its current design. We will need to have some experience in order to make these decisions and know their cost. The County tends to hire one new person at a time, and hiring 30 all at once is not possible or practical.
We will give some opening support from reserves to our judicial partners to see what is needed to carry out the intentions of the Act, and evaluate what works and what needs to be modified.
Q: What should be done to retain county staff? If you propose increases in salaries or benefits, how should those added costs be covered?
A: The County has not changed its levy in 10 years, and that discipline has reduced any chaff in our operations. It has also certainly cost us some valuable employees.
We are working on an equity study for all County employees and are planning to budget money over a 3-year period to bring our people up to market salaries.
Those of us serving know that Kane County will always elect a penurious government, but we have other rising costs every year, such as gas/electric/water expenses, IT license fees for the software we use, and Union multi-year contract increases (some of which we extend to non-union employees, again, for equity), so I believe it is past time for the County to enact a CPI increase, just like the Forest Preserve District. Our citizens expect the County to maintain roads, expedite development, protect our water supply, conduct secure elections, and they realize there is a cost for that.
Q: Do you believe the county auditor should be an elected or appointed position? Why? Are there any other countywide offices that are currently elected positions that you believe should be appointed instead? If so, please explain.
A: Elections generally have the happy result that qualified people perform the tasks and spend the taxes that their constituents expect. If expectations are met, said elected people are allowed to continue in their roles.
The auditor should continue to be an elected position responsible to the voters.
This question has come up before concerning some counties having a combined County Clerk/Recorder of Deeds position, and I believe we have proved that Kane County having an elected Clerk and an elected Recorder is both more efficient and cost-effective than trying to combine the offices. The number of staff is unlikely to change (over the last 10 years, staff has been carefully pared,) and any Chief Deputy County Clerk or Chief Deputy Recorder within an elected office will be paid more than an elected official, just as a County Administrator will demand more salary than an elected County Chairman.
Q: The county has seen an increase in truck traffic. How do you propose to address the infrastructure needs that come with this increase in traffic? Do you support a moratorium on warehouse developments in unincorporated areas of the county? Yes/No? Please explain.
A: The original impact fee program was developed to ask developers to help pay for infrastructure needs increased by the extra demand for services their projects would cause in unincorporated areas, just as the municipalities calculate increased costs in theirs.
A property owner has the right to highest and best lawful use of property, so extending the impact fees to account for additional traffic is a reasonable precedent already in place.
Q: What direction do you think the county should move as it relates to its aging buildings? Build new or rehab existing buildings? Why and how would you propose the county pay for any new buildings or improvements?
A: I believe data will help us answer this question.
Calculating the cost for a new building containing many services against the retrofit of the buildings containing those services is a manageable exercise. Working from home will weigh against the need for additional office space, changes in the use of courtrooms will answer what need there is for additional ones, the necessity for satellite services in the north and south ends of the County will not change. Some buildings are landmarks; some function well as they exist.
The recently completed Multi-Use-Facility contains the Coroner functions, protection of incredibly expensive Sheriff's equipment, and building maintenance space, but due to cost constraints, stopped short of adding necessary storage space.
We used our bonding authority to build the M-U-F, but only once we knew how the bond payments would be contained within our regular budget, and this must also be the process for any future construction.
Q: How do you think the county should spend the remaining COVID19 relief funds?
A: The funds we have spent so far have been carefully introduced and considered by the full County Board, and then vetted for Federal compliance by our State's Attorney's Office and our hired consultants, and I expect this procedure to continue.
We have helped our largest private partners retain staff who aid our most vulnerable residents. We have funded projects to protect our water supply, increase our protection for abused children, add economic development opportunities, and shore up our mental health, sometimes with the same project.
I expect we will turn our attention back to ARPA projects once past the election, and some proposals have to do with affordable housing, business grants (although we addressed many business needs with CARES Act dollars), and enhanced mental health services for kids in the juvenile justice system.
There are always more great ideas than money, but we are committed to using it all for the benefit of our neighbors.
Q: The COVID pandemic also put a spotlight on the need for mental health services. What role should the county play in this?
A: Easy answer first: everyone should support their park systems and forest preserves -- pick up some litter, thank the staff. The Kane County Forest Preserve District has maintained our dawn-to-dusk hours throughout the pandemic, and people used the preserves more than ever, saying it was helpful for themselves and their families' physical and mental health to be surrounded by Mom Nature during such a difficult time.
Harder answer: the townships in the south half of the County and the city of St. Charles have had 708 mental health services for decades, but the northern townships are just getting started. Kane County has a recently completed study recommending the County create a holistic umbrella mental health program servicing the whole County, and wrapping the existing programs and personnel within it. The challenge has been that people love their silos of influence; but it would be best to give all our residents access to mental health services, and the County can do that.