Voters in McHenry County Board District 5 have six candidates to choose from three parties for four open seats.
Three are incumbents – Republicans Tina Hill and John Jung, and Democrat Paula Yensen. Rounding out the ballot are Republican challengers Michael Skala and Michael Rein, and Green Party candidate Frank Wedig.
All 24 seats on the County Board are up for grabs Nov. 6 because of post-census redistricting. District 5, which includes Dorr Township, central Grafton Township and Precinct 4 of Greenwood Township, changed the most under the new maps, losing 10 precincts to neighboring districts.
All six candidates agreed the County Board made the right choice this year in freezing the property tax levy for next year, spurning a 3 percent increase it could have collected. To varying degrees, most of them pledged if elected to freeze the levy again next year – which is not a County Board election year – for 2014.
“I believe we can balance the service needs, keep qualified employees and not raise the levy for next year, said Hill, a Woodstock substitute teacher. “We are able to do this because of the strong financial condition that the county enjoys currently.”
Yensen, of Lake in the Hills, has earned a reputation in her first term of voting against spending increases. The executive director of the United Way of Central Kane County said she will not support a levy increase next year barring “unforeseeable and extraordinary” circumstances. She is one of two Democrats on the County Board.
While Jung, of Woodstock, said he supported this year’s levy freeze, he said it would be irresponsible to commit so soon to freezing it for 2014. Jung, who is the board vice chairman, owns Shur-Pak Inc. in Elk Grove.
“Only a liar or a fool would unequivocally state what he or she would do a year from now. Hindsight is always 20-20, but without a crystal ball, future predictions are murky at best,” Jung said.
Skala, of Huntley, said he would support another freeze – he is president of the District 158 school board, which also kept its levy flat for next year’s taxes.
Rein, a Woodstock chiropractor, said that county governments should have started freezing their levies years ago.
“People are out of work, have decreased salaries, increases in gas prices, increases in food prices – the list goes on and on. We need to find creative ways to reduce the way government does business,” Rein said.
Wedig, of Woodstock, said he will support freezes not just for next year, but in perpetuity. The airline customer service representative said it is unfair that many public sector expenses automatically increase.
“These public sector adjustments should only have the option to go up when the underlying basis for revenue, namely wages, also increase. Personal income, however, has been going down for over a decade,” Wedig said.
All six candidates oppose the referendum spearheaded by state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, to change county government to an executive form. Under that form, voters elect an executive to handle the day-to-day operations of county government. An executive has wide-ranging powers under Illinois law, including veto power over board legislation and the power to draft the county budget.
“I’m in favor of reducing the powers of the County Board chairman, but the referendum that voters will see on the November ballot does precisely the opposite,” Yensen said. “In fact, it creates an entirely new office, with much greater powers, and promises to make county government more contentious.”
Rein and Yensen supports term limits on the chairmanship. Skala said he supports a referendum to allow voters, not the 24-member board, to select the chairman.
The candidates split on their opinions of the county’s state lobbying group, which is paid for by taxpayer dollars, opposing another Franks bill that would forbid governments under the tax cap from collecting more in property taxes in years when their total assessed values decrease.
Hill said she generally opposes lobbying against bills to protect taxpayer dollars, while Wedig and Yensen support eliminating county lobbying altogether. While Skala said lobbyists should be accountable to county government, he opposes the Franks bill and defended government opposition to it.
“In this particular case, I believe the County Board was lobbying against bad legislation, not against protections for taxpayers,” Skala said.
Under redistricting, District 5 lost Grafton 14, 17, 18, 28 and 30 to District 1, and Grafton 5, 7, 8, 13 and 31 to District 2.
Republican District 5 board member Virginia Peschke lost in the March primary by 28 votes. First elected in 1990, she is presently the board’s longest-serving member.
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.