Ersel Schuster Looks at County Government – Part 3

Ersel Schuster

Ersel Schuster

This is the third installment of former McHenry County Board member and candidate Ersel Schuster’s analysis of county government:

Picking up where we left off; this installment includes an introduction to the McHenry County Department of Health.  Following the introduction is example “I” from “A Document Proposing Reductions for McHenry County government.”  This installment is the first of four examples where reductions and/or elimination in Dept. of Health services could be realized.  The county board has ignored the possibilities for saving millions in tax dollars.

To obtain any of the Reference Documents, email:  Indicate which of the documents you would like.

Installment III – Department 51:     McHenry County

McHenry County Health Department Building

McHenry County Health Department Building

Department of Health:

Funded By: General Fund – (Attachment D)

Mission Statement:                The Mission of McHenry County Department of Health is to prevent disease and promote health and safety. This shall be accomplished by investigating, assessing and implementing solutions to Health and Safety needs through collaborative community involvement, education and data collection.

Department Created By: Resolution of the McHenry County Board on April 12, 1966

 Classification: Public Health and Welfare

 Background:               The Public Health Department was established by County Board resolution on April 12, 1966. The McHenry County Board immediately appointed a Board of Health that met for the first time on April 27, 1966. Initial services offered to McHenry County residents were home health visits by the department’s registered nurses. The department has grown from a handful of employees to over 131 full and part-time employees providing a multitude of comprehensive public health services that have now made McHenry County a healthier and more desirable place to live.

Functions:                   Functions include “Health Administration,” “Public Health Nursing,” “Environmental Health,” and “Veterinary Public Health (Animal Control & Adoption).

Controlling statute:        “55 ILCS 5/5-25001”

Mandated components include (last available information from the 2013 budget (Attachment E):

  1. “Administration Division:                      Public Information:         55 ILCS 5/5 25013
  2. Administration Division:                       Fiscal Operation:            55 ILCS 5/5 25013
  3. Administration Division:                      Human Resources:          55 ILCS 5/5 25013
  4. Public Health Nursing Division:
  5. Early Identification of health concerns of children up to 3 yrs. of age:   55 ILCS 5/5 25013
  6. Environmental Health:                        Food Sanitation:               55 ILCS 5/5 25013
  7. Environmental Health:                        Private Sewage:               55 ILCS 5/5 25013
  8. Environmental Health:                           Drinking water:              55 ILCS 5/5 25013”

Number of department employees:131 full and part time employees”

Population served by department programs; – General population, urban and rural.


  • It is safe to say the mandated components of the health department, administration and environmental are used to cover a multitude of activities/services.  The question becomes, which of these activities/services are true mandates and which are provided for other reasons?
  •  Under direction of the McHenry Board of Health (BOH), a non-elected board, growth of the department today, proposes a 2015 budget for Personnel Services (salaries only), at a cost $5,376,980 for the 131 employees.  In practice, McHenry County Board Members, elected officials, defer to the BOH on their requests.
  • We would like to commend Health Department Director Hill for his current review and elimination of staff positions where a grant had ended.  It is good to report this long standing policy is finally being enforced.  Thank you, Director Hill.
  • Addressing specific areas for discussion regarding the Health Department, the following 4 “sample” department components have been singled out for review, reduction, and/or elimination.  Suggested is the elimination of programs where there is duplication of services; where those services are provided by other government entities, social service agencies and/or the private sector.

ONE (1) of FOUR (4)         HEALTH DEPARTMENT –


Solid Waste Management Program:

PERFORMANCE INDICATORS:  (Attachment D)        2013                     2014               2015

Actual                   Mid-Yr.     Projected

“Environmental-Solid Waste Activities                1,295                1,300            1,300”

PROGRAM (Attachment F):   “As of December 1, 2008 the Solid Waste Management Program for McHenry County has been relocated from the Department of Planning and Development to the Environmental Health Division of the McHenry County Department of Health. The goals of the Solid Waste Management Program are to assure the proper handling of solid waste to prevent public health concerns and to maximize the reduction, reuse and recycling of solid waste generated in McHenry County.”


  • The Solid Waste Department came into being in the late 1990’s when several landfill siting proposals were being addressed by  standing “mandate” of the McHenry County

Solid Waste Program (page 2) (Attachment G) states;

“The Residential Recycling Ordinance and Municipal Waste Hauler Licensing Ordinance require residential recycling and create mechanisms to gather data regarding volume of waste generated and recycling rates for long range solid waste management planning.”

  • While noble in nature, this mandate is not enforceable as intended.  To our understanding the best the department can do is to record recycling numbers provided by the waste haulers.  In all cases, this is subjective and questionable.  This is not to say the “guesstimates,” provided by waste haulers, should be ignored.  They must however be evaluated to determine their actual value.
  • It does call into question the rationale behind forcing the haulers to provide such information.  All such requirements / mandates cause taxpayers to cover the county’s costs (from one funding source or another) and it also increases the cost of solid waste hauling services by placing mandates on haulers in lieu of license approval.
  • In the end, taxpayers get hit several times with mandates of ordinances whether local, state or federal governments.  With new technologies and methods of handling solid waste, we must determine whether or not a need exists for the program.


  • Assign the McHenry County Health & Human Services Committee the task of placing on the table, for full review, all services of this division.  This should include looking for duplication of services; new alternatives as well as determining the program’s successes and failures.
  • A new set of eyes must consider the rationale for continuing the division as it currently exists; and/or, how it can be reduced to a more effective and limited role.  The role of the division’s “education” component should also be reviewed with objective persons who have no vested interest in the outcome of a review.
  • Under the “Administrative” mandate, the solid waste division should be scaled back to record keeping and dissemination of critical health issues.


Ersel Schuster Looks at County Government – Part 3 — 14 Comments

  1. What qualifications does Ms Schuster have to be a member of the County Board.

    What is her educational background and business experience?

  2. JimQ

    Ms. Schuster’s hypocrisy is repeated in her defense of the duplication of services by Townships, but as an ex County Board Member is suddenly concerned how the County spends our money.

    During her tenure as a County Board member, did Ms. Schuster vote on a yearly subsidy from taxpayers to the “make work” McHenry County Economic Development Commission, authorized by the County Board?

  3. There are many attachments in the Reducing County Taxes document.

    This is really just a list, but no actual document is attached.

    How does one access these “attachments”?

  4. I believe in the article, Schuster invites email requests for them.

  5. “The Environmental Health Division maintains a delegation agreement with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to conduct
    specific activities related to management of non-hazardous solid waste. These activities include inspection of permitted sites including
    the closed landfill, active composting sites and solid waste transfer stations. Staff also responds to citizen concerns of improper disposal
    of solid waste.”
    This statement was taken from the following document I found on the county’s webpage. It sounds to me like they do more than just compile recycling numbers.

  6. Jim… simply to clarify… when you talk about county v townships, you speak of apples and oranges. Please educate yourself before making such leaps.

    As to my county board record, it is consistent and has been firm to the point that I have been deemed, by the board’s monopoly, as being “too principled” because I do stand strongly behind reducing county government. My question is: What do you suppose the opposite of being “too principled” might be?

    You make reference to the McEDC commission; I believe you can find a piece I submitted on this very issue; right here on Cal’s Blog. In the piece, I state my position on the topic. Further, while on the board, my position and votes were against “public” funding for the McEDC.

    A little history on the McEDC: Originally, there was a county EDC Committee… It was spun off to become a private corporation. The county provided “seed” money to get it up and operating with the intent that in 3 years it would become self-sufficient. Surprise, surprise! Our taxes still prop up this business and we’ve not seen any substantial results for that continued investment.

    Having said that… I fully believe in the McEDC as a “private” corporation. It was intended to operate similarly to that of the McHenry County Board of Realtors organization. It was to be funded by municipal EDC’s and businesses within the county.

    Thanks for the opportunity to spell this out for you!

  7. Just Curious… you espouse the “bureaucrat” mindset in your comments.

    There are any number of “make-work” things going on in this division.

    To your specific point of the “agreement with the IEPA;” would you be surprised to know that the “haulers” provide a good part of the “work” outlined in this agreement?

    As with all such issues, we do need to begin somewhere.

    Some thought/suggestions will work well, others may not.

    Unless we are willing to being the conversation we can resign ourselves to more and more government.

    We need to decide which side we will come done on… the status quo or a serious challenge to “leave it alone” theory.

    If you come down on the latter, do not cry about your taxes.

  8. Since you are reading this Ersel, do you care to make your attachments from your reducing taxes document available?

    When creating a document, you should always include your attachments.

    I’d be interested in reading them to get a better understanding of where you’re coming from.

    I’m personally most interested in Appendix I and how Jewel, Walmart, and Walgreens have to do with the public health department.

  9. Just curious… as stated in the document, each of the installments and as Cal told you; you can email or call me.

  10. Remember people that transparency is very important when running for office…

  11. Jim, what duplicate services do townships provide that are also provided by some other unit of gov for the unincorporated parts of the county?

    List them please!

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