Financial needs and how to pay for them among top issues in Kane County Board races

Updated 11/2/2022 10:50 AM

As Kane County voters head to the polls, they will help shape the political makeup of the county board and the county's financial future.

Due to redistricting prompted by the U.S. Census, all 24 seats on the Kane County Board are up for election. County board members also serve as commissioners for the county's forest preserve district.


Only four races are uncontested. Democratic incumbents Myrna Molina, District 1; Anita Lewis, District 3; and Monica Silva, District 7, are not being challenged in their reelection bids. Newcomer Gary Daugherty, a Republican, does not face a Democratic challenger in his bid to represent District 9.

Democrats currently have a 13-11 majority on the county board, but with all seats up for election, the board's political makeup could switch after the Nov. 8 election.

The new county board will have to tackle a variety of issues. And the ongoing debate over county finances likely will continue as the board figures out how to pay for costs associated with the SAFE-T Act, deal with aging county buildings and works to retain valued county employees.

Sitting county board members, many of whom are up for reelection, unanimously backed a budget that did not include any tax increases but showed a projected $16.3 million deficit. Earlier this year, board members also voted against seeking a new county retail sales tax to help cover increased expenses.

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Board members are expected to take a final vote on the budget on Nov. 22. But the task of figuring out how to balance the budget will likely fall on a newly elected county board.

"We need to pull out a pencil, sharpen it up, and see where we can run more efficiently," said Bill Roth, a St. Charles Republican running to represent Kane County Board District 12.

District 12 will see a new county board member elected after incumbent Ken Shepro lost his bid in the Republican primary to Roth. Democrat Steve Bruesewitz also is running to represent District 12.

Noting that the county has made budget cuts over the last several years, Bruesewitz said the county may only have two options -- a sales tax or property tax hike -- to deal with increased costs.


"Both of them are really bad options," Bruesewitz said.

He said he would resist any tax increases. But if additional revenue is needed to cover increased costs, he would work to keep any tax increase to a minimum.

Some candidates suggested the board could look at using federal COVID relief funds to cover one-time expenses, such as building improvements; and reserve funds to meet the initial expense of hiring additional people to meet the requirements of the SAFE-T Act.

Kane County Board member Cliff Surges, a Gilberts Republican, said he would not support any tax increase to meet the requirements of the SAFE-T Act. He suggested Springfield lawmakers should include funding for the additional prosecutors, public defenders and court employees needed because of the new law.

"Legislation from Springfield should come with the proper funding to pay for it," he said, adding that initial projections showing an increased cost of $34 million to the county is "an insurmountable request."

His opponent, newcomer Courtney Boe, a Democrat from Sleepy Hollow, said she would first want to review estimates for increased expenses before considering any tax hikes.

"I would only look at raising any taxes as a last resort and would exhaust all other resources before even considering agreeing to raise our taxes," Boe said.

In southern Kane County, District 8 incumbent Michelle Gumz said her years of experience in law enforcement has given her an understanding of the increased staffing needed to comply with the SAFE-T Act. The Aurora Democrat has favored taking the issue of a retail sales tax to voters.

"I see no way to pay for this long term without increased revenue and have not provided any other suggestions that are sustainable," said Gumz, who added she would continue to lobby lawmakers for funding to cover the added expenses. "I am opposed to continued drawdown of reserves to solve long-term issues."

Her opponent, Aurora Republican Devin Corbett, said he opposes any new taxes to cover expenses related to the SAFE-T Act.

"The state should pay for any additional expenses that their legislation imposes on local communities," said Corbett, who also expressed opposition to the legislation.

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