Ten people seeking Republican nominations for the McHenry County Board appeared at the League of Women Voters Forum Tuesday night.
There are running for ballot spots in
- District 4 (McHenry, Johnsburg, Richmond and Spring Grove)
- District 5 (Woodstock, Huntley, Bull Valley and western Lakewood, Algonquin and Lake in the Hills)
- District 6 (basically the western half of McHenry County, plus the northern half with the exception of District 4)
Six questions were asked of the candidates, including one on the subject of most interest to me (and most likely to save tax dollars for everyone–Valley Hi’s enormous $41.3 million surplus).
Let’s start with Valley Hi first.
In opening statements District 6 candidate Alden Township Supervisor Preston Rea brought up the subject first in answer to what candidates would cut in the County budget.
He said he would like to
“put $30 million into the local economy by cleaning out the Valley Hi slush fund.
“It is low hanging fruit.
“They now have four years worth of funding.”
District 4 incumbent Sue Draffkorn echoed Rea.
Running against her is Craig Wilcox.
In an apparent slap at Draffkorn Wilcox said,
“First we should cut lip service.
“You don’t go to Valley Hi if you voted for it for the last ten years.”
Elsewhere Draffkorn said she had served on the County Board ten years.
That’s what was said before the question about Valley Hi.
The questioner pointed out that $41,341,736.59 was currently in the Valley Hi fund.
District 5’s Andy Snarski was the first to answer.
He pointed out that a 2002 referendum had established the tax. With $41 million in the bank, he contended at a reasonable amount would be $10 million.
He and others said that action was needed in Springfield (which I wished I could have pointed out was but a pipe dream, because Mike Madigan wants the Property Tax Cap to cause problems for the collar counties).
And, that zeroing out the Valley Hi levy for a second year (next year’s tax bill will be down $3 million because the County Board cut the Valley Hi levy to zero) would result in the county’s not being able to raise more real estate tax money unless voters against passed a referendum.
I am not sure whether Snarski thinks the tax should be abolished or not; perhaps he will tell us in the comment section.
$40 million is a lot of excess in that account,” District 6 candidate Grafton Township Supervisor Jim Kearns said.
“We need to know how long it will last.”
He pointed out that in the almost three years he has headed Grafton Township, its General Assistance Fund levy has been lowered.
$40 million needs to be “pull” (that’s what my notes say, but reading it, that doesn’t make sense).
“No, I wouldn’t vote to levy more,” Kearns concluded.
Kelly Liebmann, also running in District 6, pointed out that Valley Hi pretty much paid its own way.
She said the funding gap appeared to be about $500,000 per year.
$41 million is a lot of money, she observed, suggesting that the surplus could last 80 years, then backing off to 40 years.
She said that expenditure level would give “Valley Hi plenty of time to come up with $500,000.”
I didn’t get a direct quote from her saying she would vote to zero out the Valley Hi budget, so perhaps she will tell us what I missed in the comment section.
Preston Rea, also from District 6, said,
“I think it is obscene having that much money in the fund.
“If you pull the levy way back, It’s difficult,” he added.
District 6 candidate Ersel Schuster said she didn’t think the County should be running a subsidized nursing home, but noted that the voters had approved it, so she thought the County should keep operating it.
She favored dropping “that levy back all the way.”
District 4’s Kay Bates, a non-incumbent like Wilcox, told the audience that the levy needed to be reduced.
She pointed out, however, that Valley Hi is “very important” to McHenry County.
Wilcox asked for the question to be read again so people could hear that $41,341,736.59 was in the fund.
He pointed out that the current County Board members would decide whether the tax would be teminated because of a zero levy for two years in a row.
“If they have reinstated it, you can bet I will be voting against it.”
District 5 candidate Joe Calomino pointed out that only 28 Illinois counties having county-owned nursing homes.
He said the changes in funding by Federal and State government could not be predicted.
“I believe a referendum is in order.”
Incumbent Mike Skala, District 5, said he had recommended that $3 million be cut over a two-year period.
That idea did not gain approval.
“Everybody on the County Board believes the $40 million is in excess,” he said.
There were five other questions some of which I may get to eventually.
District 6 incumbent Mary McCann did not attend the meeting.