Name: Jim Prindiville
Office sought: Woodstock City Council
1) What skills, qualities or experience do you possess that separate you from your opponents?
I moved to Woodstock in search of opportunity, and stayed to raise a family and build a small business. For the past 29 years I have renovated, restored and managed property in and around the Square. With my wife, Mary Ellen, and son, Peter, I have restored and lived in two historic Woodstock homes. Several of our business and personal renovation projects have been recognized with awards from the City of Woodstock Historic Preservation Commission and the McHenry County Historic Preservation Commission. I hold a BS degree in animal science.
I was elected as a Woodstock City Council member and served from 2001-2005. I previously served on the Site Plan Review Commission. I currently am a member of the Old Courthouse and Jail Advisory Commission, the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce, and the Friends of the Old Courthouse.
I want to ensure that Woodstock continues to thrive. Decisions I make on the council will focus on preserving and enhancing Woodstock’s historic character and its economic vitality with the aim of making Woodstock a special place where people want to live and business can flourish.
2) What can the City of Woodstock do and what should it do to ease the property tax burden on homeowners?
We must expand the residential and commercial tax base and reassess spending. Woodstock needs a new direction. We must spend more wisely and partner with other taxing bodies to lower costs and share resources. We need timely, smart decisions on how to responsibly fund road repairs, where to spend, and where to cut. I advocate that we cut programs that don’t deliver a strong economic return for taxpayers or substantially improve the quality of life for residents. This is key to a better economic future and a lower tax rate. Quality of life includes good roads, quality schools, and safe, stable neighborhoods where people want to live, and invest their time, talents and money. For the last ten years, the council has narrowly focused on making Woodstock a destination for visitors with the expectation that this will bring us economic prosperity. We have spent millions of dollars to achieve this goal. Our economic development resources must be spent more effectively. The proven economic model for a town like Woodstock requires a strong, stable community of residents. Let’s focus on what’s best for residents. The results we want—more jobs and growth—are more likely to come.
3) How would you describe the climate in Woodstock's city government for businesses? What needs improvement? What's working?
The economic development department is providing good economic and statistical information. Economic development efforts should expand our tax base and bring high quality jobs to Woodstock. Last week, the climate for business became worse when the city council cut the municipal portion of real estate taxes by 10 percent. Of all taxes, the municipal tax is the most palatable to businesses. It pays for infrastructure and services that are important to a business. Our road repair and maintenance plan is $800,000/year short for 2018 and coming years. With the city council’s recent tax cut, the city is now short another $900,000/year and has to find $1.7 million/year to maintain our quality of life and repair roads. The current council plans to replace lost revenue with an additional sales tax. Adding any sales tax will be bad for business in Woodstock. Shoppers will find alternative places to buy, businesses will leave Woodstock, and others will be less inclined to locate or expand in Woodstock. The net economic effect will be less demand for people to do business in Woodstock. This will cause a deterioration of our tax base, a decline in employment, and diminish the quality of life for residents.
4) What will be the biggest challenge that Woodstock residents and their village government will face over the next four years and how will you meet it?
With the council’s recent 10% municipal tax cut, the biggest challenge will be finding new revenue sources or cutting budgets in ways that don’t hurt residents and businesses. Please see my answer to question 3 above for an explanation of the city’s budget shortfall. Balancing a $1.7/million budget shortfall will be a challenge. Working to resurrect the Woodstock Station project before the TIF district’s expiration in 2020 will also be a challenge. Rising interest rates are also a looming threat that the city cannot control but must anticipate. Low interest rates have shielded taxpayers from higher borrowing costs. As interest rates rise, the cost of living and doing business goes up and high taxes will be even more painful. Funding repair of our roads will be a challenge. Road repairs have been neglected for years while the city has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on tourism programs that have not been a good investment for taxpayers. We need to cut spending on non-essentials that don’t improve quality of life, add jobs, or build the tax base. All of these challenges will require thoughtful, informed, and courageous decisions.
5) Should the City of Woodstock maintain ownership of the old courthouse? Why or why not?
The old courthouse and jail present a positive opportunity for the city that hasn’t yet been realized. Over $2 million in TIF funds have been spent stabilizing these buildings. It is time for the city to stop this spending. At this time, there is no plan, no goals, and most importantly, no budget, for this project. As a member of the Old Courthouse and Jail Commission, I have researched and visited projects in other communities that we can draw parallels from in terms of ownership options beyond the city continuing to hold title to the property. A form of ownership must be pursued that can manage and restore these buildings without TIF funds, and create a long term-plan and budget that will be sustainable and serve the public good. The new ownership—most likely a not-for-profit foundation or a special city building commission—should stand alone in finances and management. When put into separate ownership the project can garner philanthropic support. Management and oversight will become more focused and efficient.
6) What do you expect to change about Woodstock by the end of your term?
I hope the city council will have returned to leadership that takes care of the basics and pays attention to the nuts and bolts of delivering services that improve quality of life for residents and businesses. I want a focus on maintaining infrastructure, especially on road repair. As a city with home rule authority, the current council wants seven council members to decide what kind of community Woodstock will become. I believe that there are certain questions—like increasing the sales tax—that should go to a voter referendum. Voters need to have a voice in determining the kind of city they want to live in. I hope that we are always friendly to our existing businesses, and aggressively seeking and welcoming to new ones. We need to recognize the benefits of a more proactive outreach to our business leaders. I would like to see an expanded tax base with more high quality commercial and residential development, including more residential development in the TIF district (Woodstock Station). I’d like to see our job base grow, hopefully replacing the 2,000+ jobs lost since 2007. I hope that we will be making well-informed decisions based on quality life for our residents.