Name: Larry W. Smith
Office Sought: McHenry County Board District 6
Occupation: Real Estate Broker, Property Manager, Farm Owner
Education: McHenry County College, University of Wisconsin and Northern Illinois University
Elected Offices Held: McHenry County Board Member, District 6
1. What skills, qualities or experience do you possess that separates you from your opponents?
I am an experienced decision-maker, a self-employed business owner in McHenry County for over 30 years, and a current county board member. I have the work ethic to dig to the bottom of issues. I believe that understanding both the immediate and the long-term consequences of my vote, is essential.
As a current county board member, I have earned the respect and confidence of my colleagues. I have been voted to chair the Planning, Environmental & Development Committee and the Community Development and Housing Block Grant Commission.
I will cooperate with and support any county board member who brings forth ideas and plans to make McHenry County better, and save the taxpayers money. I will continue to bring a positive approach to County Board business and strive to represent my constituents free of the bipartisan politics that has so hindered good government in the past.
2. What can the McHenry County Board do and what should it do to ease the property tax burden on homeowners?
We did it! We reduced your county real estate taxes by 11.2 percent. McHenry County will collect 11.2 percent less in taxes for the 2018 tax year. This was accomplished by utilizing a tax abatement, which I consider to be the most prudent way to lower taxes this year.
The state of Illinois has statutes in place that regulate what a county can or cannot do relative to the county tax levy. The precarious financial position of the state, and our budget being continually negatively impacted by unfunded State mandates*, led me to the decision that utilizing an abatement to lower taxes for the year 2018, was in the best interest of the taxpayers of McHenry County. Leaving the tax levy as is for 2018, effectively creates a financial “safety net” for the residents of McHenry County. I am hopeful this year will bring some financial stability on the state level, which would allow us to reduce the levy, as opposed to an abatement, and lock in the tax savings for McHenry County taxpayers.
*Recently, (after we approved the 2018 budget), the unfunded state mandates include (1) updated election equipment at a cost of approximately $2.5 million; (2) requiring a state’s attorney to be present at all bond hearings, which required the hiring of another assistant state’s attorney.
The current county board has led by example to lower taxes. We have shown other taxing bodies that it can be done.
3. Do you think the McHenry County Board should evaluate the possibility of leasing or privatizing Valley Hi Nursing Home?
Valley Hi Nursing Home provides a vital service for our county’s most vulnerable population, our residents in need of skilled nursing care. Valley Hi fills a need which a private entity may not. I believe control of Valley Hi should stay with the county. Our county residents need to know there is a quality place for them, even if they cannot afford a private facility. I believe that relinquishing control of Valley Hi to a private entity takes this safety net away from our vulnerable population. In the end, we must put people first.
4. Do you think the size of the McHenry County Board should be reduced from 24 members to 12 members? Why or why not?
I am in favor of reducing the size of the county board. We must always be cognizant of putting too much governmental power into the hands of a few. However, our county board could work very well with two members from each district, by changing the size of the standing committees from seven members to five members. It is my belief that this would still offer quality representation to the people of each district, would make county government more efficient, and save the taxpayers money.
5. What can the county board do to make McHenry County a more attractive place for business?
I have been an active member of the Harvard-Woodstock Enterprise Zone. I have learned that adequate infrastructure is the top consideration for potential large businesses relocating or starting up in McHenry County. We must continue to maintain and improve our county infrastructure. I voted in favor of the interchange at Route 23 and I-90, which would be the only interchange on I-90 in McHenry County. It will be a huge boost to the economic engine driving the Western half of McHenry County, which is District 6.
Relative to smaller businesses, as Chairman of Planning, Environmental & Development, I am actively involved in revising the Unified Development Ordinance. It is my goal to revise burdensome, and eliminate unnecessary, building and zoning regulations. We need to make our building and zoning regulations more user friendly and understandable to the general population. Implementing regulations that are more user friendly and consistent in enforcement, will better serve businesses and residents of McHenry County, and further serve to encourage business growth in the county.
6. What do you think is the most pressing issue the county board will face in the next two years and how will you address it?
The most pressing issue will be budget considerations: holding the line on the tax reductions and looking for further savings to help reduce taxes. This will be the top budget priority for me. We need to change the tax reduction from a tax abatement, to a reduction in the tax levy, in order to lock in the savings for the taxpayers of McHenry County.
As a member of the Finance and Audit Committee, we have already begun working on the 2019 fiscal year budget, and I believe we can accomplish a reduction in the tax levy by implementing the following goals:
Hold the line on the 11.2 percent tax reduction, which was accomplished for 2018;
Turn that tax reduction from an abatement to a reduction of the tax levy, which will lock in those savings for the taxpayers of McHenry County;
Reduce spending without compromising services, which will allow further reductions in the tax levy;
Formulate and finalize a five (5)-year plan for critically needed capital improvements without raising taxes or borrowing money;
Continuing to balance the budget and preserve our “AAA” bond rating;
Preserve enough of a reserve to cover future unfunded State and Federal mandates.
These are realistic goals that I am confident we can accomplish.