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Ersel Schuster

Demographics

Republican

Woodstock, IL

Associates Degree, , McHenry County College

Bachelors Degree, Business Psychology, National College of Education

Masters Degree, Counselor, National Louis University

Retired,

Married, Ed

On The Record

Why are you running for county board?

County taxpayers are at the limit of what they can pay in taxes to run their government. I have worked long and hard to gain the attention of fellow county board members to grasp that concept and to ratchet down the demand for more tax money. Over the last 2 years, enough members have finally begun to realize that reducing the size of government means that we need fewer taxes. Efforts to reduce county government have just begun. For me, this is at the top of my list of important projects we face as elected officials. I would like to continue this work so we can assure taxpayers that our county board will not slip back into mode of automatically raising the levy to once again grow county government.

What is your top legislative priority if you are elected?

Elected officials at the state and federal levels seem oblivious to the unintended consequences their actions as they write new laws. These new laws most often direct other governing entities to implement the costly mandates these laws inflict upon us. We must work to eliminate this practice. For this reason, unfunded mandates are at the top of my legislative priorities.

Where do you stand on the upcoming March referendum to make the County Board chairmanship popularly elected by the voters?

I oppose the referenda question. Under our current structure, Illinois law and county board rules allow the county board members to elect a chairman to a 2 year term. The board can limit the number of 2 year terms any one person holds that position. If elected by popular vote, this person is elected to 4-year terms. It is clear this creates another position for what becomes an entrenched, political career. Examples abound where a person, once elected to an office, is re-elected to that position over and over again. You see this phenomenon play out for most elected offices. Cook County is just one very good example of why electing the president or chairman at large is not a desirable way to run county government. Many elected officials, including myself, would like to reduce the size of county government. If the referendum is approved, a new level of government is created as well as adding a 25th county board member. There are also added costs for more staff and lawyers. Lastly, there are no definitive directions defining how the county board and the chairman interact. Numerous issues are created and disputes abound under the elected at large scenario.

Do you believe that the County Board – before 2013 – kept an adequate eye on the finances and spending of the McHenry County Mental Health Board? Why or why not?

No. It is deeply disturbing that after years of operation, the county board has not been the watch-dog it should have been over the Mental Health Board (MHB) operation. McHenry County collects the real estate tax dollars for the MHB. The MHB approves and sends their bills to the county for payment, offsetting those tax dollars. It was assumed the standard county audit was all that was necessary. Frankly, I am appalled that an annual, internal audit of the entire MHB operation, not just a small part of it, has not been standard operating practice. Along with the real estate taxes, the MHB collects huge sums in grant dollars and numerous other funding sources. They need to account for how they are disbursing all the funds that go through the operation. They also need to be audited as to the methods use to award grants to service providers. Having called for an internal audit, it appears we will have the first such audit presented to the MHB at their next meeting. The public has a right to know how the MHB spends the millions of dollars they collect and spend.

Do you believe the county should continue to run Valley Hi Nursing Home, or would you like to see it sold to a private entity?

The residents of McHenry County voted to continue operating the Valley Hi Nursing Home. While a proponent of reducing county government, I support, and will work to accomplish the wishes of the voters. The intent of the Valley Hi Operation has been to provide for those less fortunate in our community. Currently there has been a change in philosophy and a movement toward reducing the number of Medicaid beds to allow for more “private pay” beds. This undermines the intent of the operation and makes it another nursing home competing for the private pay residents. In the process, those unfortunate enough to run out of their savings are left with nowhere to be placed.

What issues would you like to see addressed in the upcoming Unified Development Ordinance?

Space does not allow for full discussion of everything needing consideration in the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). Therefore, I will discuss only the most critical issue. Over and over again we are made aware of the fact that our ground water resources are limited. Normally, a relatively simple issue to come to grips with; however, public officials choose to close their eyes to realities and think that the next guy/gal in office can deal with it. Unfortunately, that will be too late. If public officials continue putting rooftops and asphalt over open land… they are ensuring water shortages and huge costs to future generations. The UDO is intended to reflect the direction outlined in the county’s 2030 Land Use Plan. To accomplish that, all current elements in the proposed UDO encouraging non-agricultural use in rural areas need to be removed from the document. Also, more emphasis should be added directing non-agricultural development to existing municipal governments as requested by those mayors and village president. This would simplify the Ordinance, save ground water recharge areas guaranteeing potable water for our residents. Further, it would prevent disruption of the agricultural community and the work they do while putting food on our tables.

Do you believe county government should continue to keep its tax levy frozen? Why or why not? And if not, what expenses would you cut to ease the burden on taxpayers?

No matter what we think we’ve accomplished in reducing spending… it is not enough. The appetite of elected officials for more tax dollars is beyond commonsense when it comes to finding ways to grow government. One of the most insidious spirals public officials get caught in is believing that “grants” are not tax dollars. The vast majority of the grants applied for and collected by government entities consist of tax dollars from one taxing source or another. Grants come with string attached. Included in the fine-print of a grant award are strings that guarantee growth in government. If you do not follow those rules not only does the grant will go away, often the full amount of the grant must be repaid. Unfortunately, it will be necessary to engage an outside firm to delve into each and every department in the county to locate and untangle the web of grant-grown government. We’ve tried doing this internally and needless to say, every grant and program is sacred and must be kept.

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