Three Republican incumbents, a familiar Republican face, and one Democratic challenger are running for District 1 of the McHenry County Board.
The five-way race for four seats includes GOP incumbents Anna May Miller, Robert Bless and Robert Nowak, former board member Yvonne Barnes, and Democratic candidate Nick Chirikos.
All 24 County Board seats are up for grabs because of redistricting following the 2010 U.S. Census. The district covers much of Algonquin Township, as well as southeastern Grafton Township.
All five candidates supported the County Board’s decision to freeze its property tax levy and not collect the 3 percent increase on next year’s bills that taxing bodies are entitled to under the tax cap. When asked by the Northwest Herald, all five also signaled a willingness to do the same next year for 2014 tax bills.
Barnes, a self-employed business consultant who served a term before losing in the 2010 primary, said the county can compensate for holding the levy steady through additional budget cuts.
“Governmental entities need to reduce expenditures just as individuals and companies have been doing for a lengthy period of time,” she said.
Candidates split somewhat on the related question of whether the county should have allowed the spending of tax money to lobby against a bill that would have forbidden taxing bodies from collecting increases when their overall assessed value decreases.
Chirikos, a building products distributor and chairman of the county Historic Preservation Commission, called such spending an affront to taxpayers.
“Whatever rhetorical gymnastics are used to defend this, the practice of using taxpayer funds to defeat taxpayer interests is antithetical to the concept of representative government,” Chirikos said.
Nowak and Barnes expressed similar sentiments.
“I support efforts to stop increases in years when property values are in decline. The County Board needs to establish policy to hold the line on tax increases. The county staff has done a great job on holding the line on spending,” Nowak said.
Bless said such laws, and the costs and benefits to taxpayers, should be weighed with an open mind. Miller, a secretary for the Algonquin Township Highway Department, opposed the bill in question by Democratic state Rep. Jack Franks, but said she would support meaningful tax reform.
“If there was a simple solution to freeze property taxes and continue to address critical public services, i.e. education, infrastructure, mental health and public safety, I would most decidedly support it,” Miller said.
All five candidates oppose another Franks initiative – the binding referendum to change to a county executive form of government. Under that form, voters would popularly elect an executive to run county government’s day-to-day operations. The executive would wield significantly more power than the current board chairman, who is chosen by board members rather than by voters.
Bless, an attorney, said he opposes the county executive but supports making the chairmanship popularly elected.
“It is my understanding that the executive form of government would allow for a position that would give one person too much power. I think the voters should answer the ultimate question. I am not against a popularly elected chairman,” Bless said.
Bless is facing a complaint against his law license filed in 2010 by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, according to commission records. The complaints are unrelated to his position on the County Board.
All five candidates said county government must take steps to ease procedures and regulations to attract businesses. The Northwest Herald asked what they thought of local government’s business climate in the wake of the obstacles and delays a couple are facing to turn their existing vineyard into a winery.
District 1’s boundaries changed slightly under the new map. It gained five Grafton Township precincts in the Lake in the Hills/Huntley area – 14, 17, 18, 28 and 30 – and lost five precincts in Algonquin Township’s northeast corner – 21, 29, 49, 50 and 67 – to District 3.
County Board member Marc Munaretto, of Algonquin, is not seeking re-election. Voters first elected him in 1998.
On the Net
Visit Election Central at NWHerald.com/election to learn more about the races, candidates and issues in the Nov. 6 election.
McHenry County Board districts have changed slightly because of post-census redistricting. Visit http://shawurl.com/4q2 to see the new district boundary maps.
Visit the McHenry County Clerk’s website at www.co.mchenry.il.us/departments/countyclerk to view sample ballots, lists of candidates and polling places.