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McHenry County Board - District 1 (Republican)

Voting will take place Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Voters will be able to select 2 candidates in this race. The 2 candidates with the most votes will be elected.

Winner in this race will be elected for a term of 4 years.

Click a question below to display the candidates' answers to that question.

Why are you running for county board?

Andrew Gasser

I’m running for McHenry County Board because we need more government watch dogs. Our county property taxes are among the highest in the nation. Nearly every citizen who owns a home in McHenry County has seen the value of their property decrease, while at the same time, has had their property taxes rise faster than the rate of inflation. This is just wrong. It is wrong that when we are having to do more with less and the seeing our hard earned dollar lose its purchasing power while the local government maintains itself. It just seems to me that politicians keep on running our government the same way because “that’s just the way it’s done.” I think this wrong and we should look for savings through innovation and reducing the size of government bodies where we can. The Illinois pension plan is in a crisis. How can any elected politician take a pension when our teachers are hurting? Therefore, I will not be taking the pension should I be elected. Elected officials get “Cadillac Health Insurance Plans” while many citizens go without or may have even lost coverage due to Obamacare. Therefore, I will not accept the insurance plan.

David Stieper

Since 2002, McHenry County government expenditures have more than doubled. McHenry County government expenditures per capita is one of the highest in the entire United States. Since moving in McHenry County in 2001, like you, my wife and I have seen our real estate taxes more than double. These increased expenditures in McHenry County are unprecedented and unless the dynamic of the Board is changed, McHenry County government expenditures will continue to rise. This doubling of county government expenditures occurred during one of the worse economic downturns in our nation’s history. As a result, the residential mortgage foreclosure rate in McHenry County is almost double the average of the mortgage foreclosure rate in the State of Illinois. This out of control spending makes McHenry County an undesirable place for new families and business to locate bringing down further property values decimated by the economy. The skill set I bring to the county board is: (1) independence (2) experience and (3) expertise. I am an independent candidate belonging to no special interest group refusing to engage in team politics. Instead, if elected, I will focus my energy on building a consensus of board members around sound fiscally responsible ideas. I am not a novice to government having served on my Village’s plan commission and zoning board of appeals. As a plan commission member, I assisted in drafting our Barrington Hills’ Comprehensive Plan. As a practicing attorney with a Master’s Degree in Business Administration with more than 20 years of experience in the areas of construction, real estate (including banking, land use and zoning) professional liability and business litigation, I can navigate with relative ease and familiarity financial and legal issues which others on the board might find complex and confusing. I will serve no more than two terms working to restore McHenry County government to place which makes sense to its residents.

Robert Nowak

I’m running for the County Board because McHenry County has been my home for the last 35 years, the place where I raised my family and run a business. I like the way McHenry County has grown throughout the years and I want to preserve that strength and integrity for the future. The services, standard of living, the bond rating, the open land and conservation of land are unsurpassed by others county’s. That is why I what to be a Board Member.

What is your top legislative priority if you are elected?

Andrew Gasser

Job creation is my number one legislative issue at the county board. Jobs in McHenry county increase the tax revenue the county, and municipalities, collect. We must work to make McHenry County attractive to create businesses. We must be friendlier to new businesses than our neighboring counties. Currently, McHenry County is the 29th most expensive county… not in Illinois but the nation. With such high taxes we cannot effectively compete against other counties. We must look at ways to reduce the burden of government on not only the businesses and job creators, but also everyone who lives and works in McHenry County. By lowering taxes we allow entrepreneurialism to flourish and create more jobs in the county. This in turn increases the number of taxpayers in the system. Even though we have lowered taxes, with more businesses, jobs, and economic activity we increase revenues and the quality of life. We have to turn a critical eye to how we spend our taxpayer dollars. We must really start to assess what is critical to maintain the county government, what is a need, and what is a want. When we start making these decisions the county becomes more conducive for economic development.

David Stieper

Reduce McHenry County Budget. In these difficult economic times, county government must find meaningful ways to decrease its size and spending by concentrating efforts on necessary and not excessive county government. One of my primary objectives as a Board Member will be to find ways to decease government by bringing greater fiscal discipline to the Board. The first thing I will do is decline to take the medical, dental and pension benefits offered to McHenry County Board members and I will challenge the remainder of the Board to do the same. These full time benefits should not be available for a part-time board member job. This action alone will save county tax payers more than $400,000 per year. It will also send a message to the rank and file that McHenry County government is entering into a new era where fiscal management of tax payer funds comes first. Further reduction of expenditures can come from opening up the bidding process as well as increasing information available on the county website for the public and outside firms to examine. There should be more emphasis on directing funds to meet the “absolute needs” of McHenry County rather than the “wants”.

Robert Nowak

Top legislative priorities are funding for the 3.5 mile Randall Road corridor, elimination of the tax levy, continue to hold the line on spending, continue the studies and monitoring on ground water in the county, complete the rewrite of the United Development Ordinance and the Storm water Ordinance.

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

Andrew Gasser

I think the internal approach to elect a board chairman leaves a lot to be desired because of the politicking that has traditionally been done to win the chairmanship. Although one advantage of the current system is that the term is for 2 years. Unfortunately the majority of current county board members choose the four year rather than the two year option for the county wide elected chairman. A four year term is problematic because the electorate could get stuck with a chairman who yields significant power over board members and the county but may not live up to the responsibilities entrusted to him or her. I do respect the board’s decision to allow the people to decide if they want to popularly elect the county chairman. On the other hand, allowing a county board chairman to be elected to a four year term is a poor choice. Thus, I recommend the public vote no for this measure.

David Stieper

I support the referendum to make the County Board Chairmanship popularly elected by McHenry County voters. I believe that individuals who take the time to vote in McHenry County take the time to educate themselves on the issues. Such an election will give residents an absolute say on who should head the County Board applying for the most part objective criteria like: experience, voting record, priorities, ability, disposition and professional skills. Popular election will take the backroom politics out of the decision which comes naturally from a parliamentary process. By making the chairmanship an elected decision, it will diminish the elitist stature of the Board serving, in part, as a litmus test and notice of what the public believes should be the priorities and expectations of the Board. Democracy in its purest form, although often a messy process, of government.

Robert Nowak

I am not in favor of changing the form of government that we currently have. If the Chairman of the County Board is elected by the citizens of McHenry County our present form of government will ch ange, the Chairman will take the place of the County Administrator creating the need for his/her own staff Vice Chairman, Secretary, attorney and clerks. Then an additional County Board Member will be needed to keep the integrity of 24 member board or four representatives from each district. In these times of cutting expenses, this action is going to cost over a million dollars.

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?

Andrew Gasser

The county board failed the taxpayers with respect to the Mental Health Board. A $1.4 million dollar loan given to a faltering agency is unacceptable to me. How can the CEO collect a golden parachute of over $240k and then have the loan forgiven? Salaries and administration costs of the MHB are unacceptable. After pressure the MHB was forced to admit that salaries and administration costs were above 30%. To me – again, this is completely unacceptable. With a budget of roughly $12.5 million are we the taxpayers to believe the county needs to expend $3.75 million to distribute the remaining $8.75 million? The purpose of the MHB is to help those who cannot help themselves. We need transparent government where elected officials and the citizens should be able to examine the current budget as well as the past five years in easily searchable excel and pdf formats without having to FOIA the information. The citizens of McHenry County want to help those who need it. However, the mechanism that administers those funds is broken and if elected – this will be an agenda item for myself and others on the board.

David Stieper

No. Too much of the money appropriated to the County Mental Health Board was spent on administrative expenses and overhead. It is the County Board which must approve the total appropriation received by the Mental Health Board. For instance, 3 Million Dollars was spent to expand the size of its headquarters in Crystal Lake even though staffing and administration has decreased because of a greater dependency on allocating funds to surrounding agencies who serve the mentally disabled. Further, the Mental Health Board has lost more than a Million Dollars in loans to mental health agencies one of which obtained a discharge order through the Federal Bankruptcy Court. These loans were unsecured, given without obtaining any collateral. In the end, these lost funds failed to reach the intended recipients, the mentally disabled they were intended to serve. While hindsight is 20/20, greater oversight must be taken by the county Board pertaining to the condition of these loans and overhead costs to ensure the needs of the mentally disabled in McHenry County are being adequately served.

Robert Nowak

Yes, I do believe the County Board adequately monitored the budget and finances of the Mental Health Board. The County’s roll in the finances of the Mental Health Board is to oversee and approve their budget not to monitor the day to day handling of the finance. I also don’t believe it was a miss handling of funds, but a cutting of State funding. It would have been prudent for the Board to have saved more in the reserve fund, however hard times with the economy as a whole did not allow for that to accrue.

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?

Andrew Gasser

More and more counties are moving away from maintaining and running county nursing homes. A few years ago that option was put forward to the voters in the form of a referendum. McHenry County voters voted overwhelmingly to keep Valley Hi intact as an important resource for our elderly. Recently, Valley Hi has moved toward profitability and economic stability due to the skill of the current management and staff. There does not seem any reason to change the approach that is currently in place. However, this does not mean that the county board should not exercise scrutiny over the Valley Hi budget. It is also good that we have such an excellent resource to care for our elderly who may be facing dire circumstances.

David Stieper

I would like to explore taking this nursing home private. This is a prime example of county government engaging in activities beyond its mission. This is also an example where the private sector can perform this function cheaper and better. It is interesting to note that once the construction bond was paid for by the taxpayers to construct Valley Hi, tax payers did not see a reduction in their tax bills instead these tax revenues continue to be collected and ostensibly deposited into an account referred to on the financials of Valley Hi as the “Fund Reserve Enhancement” now totaling more than 8 Million Dollars. From what I can tell, this is simply cash on hand at Valley Hi paid for by tax payers last year and this year which sits in a Valley Hi financial account.

Robert Nowak

At this time with a slow depressed market I believe Valley Hi Nursing Home is in better hands being owned and managed by the County. The County Staff has worked hard to turn that facility around making it more independent and self sustaining. However, to sell off the facility to a private entity is not a bad idea to help fund some other capital project of the County.

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

Andrew Gasser

I believe that the most important objective of the Unified Development Ordinance is to protect our groundwater supply. As a land locked county with no access to Lake Michigan water (by US treaty) we must depend solely on our own groundwater. McHenry County must have protections in place to make certain that clean plentiful groundwater is available for the generations that follow. The UDO will give guidance in rural areas as well as municipalities with zoning boards. Protecting open spaces is an important part of groundwater protection. Poorly planned spot development diminishes open spaces, and as a result, restricts aquifer recharge which is vital to residential, business, and agriculture. Therefore, this is an important provision. To me this means that development in, as well as adjoining to existing developments, and municipalities is far more suitable than development in rural areas that lack the infrastructure to support the new homes and businesses. Taking these proactive measures will provide water availability for generations to come, protects our property values, and ensures that McHenry County remains a highly desirable area to work, live, and raise a family.

David Stieper

One issue which I believe is of primary importance to McHenry County is its depleting ground water supply. Having served on the Board of Directors of the Barrington Area Conservation Trust as well as the many years of service on the Plan Commission, I am strongly aware of this issue. While the UDO includes groundwater protection requirements I would like to further examine whether it provides for adequate safeguards for proposed developments around sensitive aquifers and recharge areas. Also consideration should be given whether the UDO should include septic and well requirements. Overall, I would like to see more illustrations and tables making explanation on some of these issues easier as well as a single section in the UDO designated to procedure and process for obtaining variance, special use and land use approval for development.

Robert Nowak

At this time I’m in support of the UDO there isn’t anything that I feel is in need of a major change. I would like to see the moratorium on signs lifted so the business of the County can proceed with the permits without going against the unapproved ordinance. The Committee has put a lot of work into the process, but it needs to be over.

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?

Andrew Gasser

The County Board has done the right thing by freezing the tax levy this year. Economic times have been difficult for most in McHenry County and holding the line on taxes was the right thing to do. Going forward holding the line will not be enough. Next year –we must shrink the size of the McHenry County government. Aggressively controlling or eliminating costs is the only way to achieve a smaller county government. One way to do obtain smaller government is to avoid unnecessary capital development and expanding government services. The recent Randall Road pork barrel widening project is an example where spending, such as the $1 Million in community outreach, is excessive and unnecessary. I will be very cautious in taking on expensive transportation and road projects that require bond financing that will burden future taxpayers, and are unrealistic for the County to undertake. I will challenge the expensive status quo and the dysfunction that occurs through government expansion in the misguided attempt to solve all of society’s problems by proposing more government programs. I will lead the effort to oversee corrective action to address waste, abuse, and restructuring so community needs are addressed in a cost-effective manner.

David Stieper

Focus on county government should be on dramatically reducing spending which will equate to need for less tax revenue. A freeze on the tax levy has not equated to decrease in McHenry County property tax bills when it comes to county spending. By the end of my first term, I would like to see a reduction of the tax levy and a plan for further reductions in the future. Beside, exploring taking Valley Hi private and requesting the Board decline accepting medical, dental and pension benefits for this part time job, serious reduction cannot be obtained without examining labor costs. While McHenry County has more than 200,000 less residents than neighboring Kane County, McHenry County has more than 40 employees. Further, expenditures on welfare and health in McHenry County far exceed that of Kane County and I think it is worth exploring why. I would like to introduce a process of “0” based budgeting where every government expense is justified based upon “need” rather than simply tacking on an automatic increase every year simply because it has always been done that way. The Board should look at possible outsourcing of jobs to the private sector where it can especially where it can be done cheaper without compromising service. Most importantly, bidding on all county projects should be done openly and competitively. Board members should be required to not only recuse him or herself on any vote to approve a contractor but should identify the basis for the recusal.

Robert Nowak

I’m totally in support of keeping the Tax Levy frozen; in fact I would like to see the state vote to do away with the tax levy in its entirety. Years ago when the tax levy went into place we were in a very strong economy with strong growth and taxing entities were having a hard time keeping up with demands on the system, so the tax levy helped schools, libraries, fire departments, local and county government to keep up with the growth. Today, we don’t have that growth in fact we have an ailing economy. I feel the tax levy has out served its need and now it’s used for extra funds. Funds that always can be used.

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