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McHenry County Board - District 6 (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?

Ersel Schuster

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.

Larry Smith

My interest in running for office stems from my lifelong interest in politics and the hope I can better represent the voters of District 6. I am confident my experiences as a real estate broker, appraiser, director of an insurance company, and farm owner can bring a fresh perspective to the County Board. As a self-employed businessman in McHenry County for over 30 years, my positive approach on the County Board will represent my constituents free of the bipartisan politics that has so often hindered good government in the past.

Michele Aavang

I have a keen interest in the future of McHenry County as the owner of a local business, and as a member of a family that has roots here dating back to the 1840’s. Since being elected to this office over a year ago I have enjoyed meeting many residents and working to help them with concerns. I have also been an advocate for agriculture; I hope to win re-election this year to continue. My leadership experience and community involvement, combined with my decades of practical managerial and business experience enable me to be a thoughtful and effective board member.

What is your top legislative priority if you are elected?

Ersel Schuster

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.

Larry Smith

A top priority for me would be to see that the Unified Development Ordinance is completed in an appropriate manner to be approved and implemented. I would like to see it designed well enough to have the backing of the entire County Board. This Ordinance can be the backbone of bringing job-creating business development to McHenry County. Quality jobs have the potential to drive our economy, bring tax money to our County, and ease the tax burden on the homeowners of McHenry County. Many quality people have spent countless hours working on this Ordinance, and I think it is appropriate to dedicate the necessary resources required to finish it in its entirety.

Michele Aavang

A top legislative priority would have to be taxation. I support efforts to control taxes, including property tax fairness. I oppose unfunded mandates imposed by the state or federal government.

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

Ersel Schuster

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.

Larry Smith

I am in favor of having the referendum on the ballot and giving the voters an opportunity to be heard. This is in direct contrast to my opponent Ersel Schuster’s “NO” vote in January of 2013. With her “NO” vote to support placing the referendum on the ballot, she is saying “the voters can’t be trusted”. There has been continued public support for a popular election of the chair of the County Board. I personally support the current arrangement of having the board members elect the chair. However, in the interest of transparency, I feel the voters should have their say. If the referendum results show my constituents feel the chair should be popularly elected, I will support this position and work towards making it happen.

Michele Aavang

I’m pleased that the issue will appear on the ballot. Let’s allow the voters to decide how they wish to fill this position. Personally, I can see both advantages and disadvantages to having the position popularly elected. In District 6, the more rural part of the county that encompasses the vast majority of the unincorporated land in the county, it could be seen as a disadvantage.

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?

Ersel Schuster

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.

Larry Smith

In hindsight it is apparent that the County Board could have done more regarding this matter. I would like to commend the board members who did realize there was a problem and had the courage to speak out. I do not think this was as much a problem of the County Board not keeping an eye on the finances of the Health Board as it is a problem of not having a system in place to oversee these matters for all boards and departments receiving county funds. There should be a system in place that brings all boards and departments before the County Board in a timely manner to justify their budgets. As departments and boards like the Health Board develop and grow, they typically come back to the County Board for further appropriations. Often with increased appropriations there is the creation of new departments or new divisions within departments. This increase in size and the scope of their actions has contributed to more government spending and higher taxes. A system should be set up so that each department, on a rotating basis every 3 years, would be required to justify their budget from dollar one for the County Board to review. This would be very helpful in eliminating waste and/or duplication of services, and help make our County government operate as efficiently as possible.

Michele Aavang

The County Board is responsible for approving the Mental Health Board’s budget and appointing their board members. Other financial decisions, including grant management, are made by the Mental Health Board itself. A County Board member is appointed as a liason to the MHB and should have access to detailed financial reports so that adequate oversight can be accomplished.

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?

Ersel Schuster

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.

Larry Smith

Valley Hi Nursing Home serves a need for the elderly of McHenry County in a way that a private entity may not. I think control of Valley Hi should stay with the County. The elderly of our county need to know there is a place for them even if they cannot afford a private rest home. This is a safety net for our elderly that may not be there if control of Valley Hi was relinquished to a private entity.

Michele Aavang

The county should continue to operate Valley Hi. It’s running effectively and fills a very real need in the county. Valley Hi is an asset that is highly valued by the residents here. To sell it at this point would serve no purpose.

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

Ersel Schuster

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.

Larry Smith

Key components of this ordinance must include how it is to be implemented and public understanding of the implementation of this ordinance. There needs to be a uniform and understandable procedure available for anyone who will be working under the jurisdiction of this ordinance. For example, a flow chart could be developed outlining the steps required to let applicants know what is expected in regards to development, permits, and estimated time frame to make it all happen. The applicants for permits need to be able to make informed decisions as to their ability to meet requirements, time frames, and costs involved. The ability to make informed decisions and move forward in a timely fashion will encourage job-creating businesses to locate or expand in McHenry County.

Michele Aavang

The UDO should clarify zoning and land use issues and answer questions that concern residents. It must be mindful to protect economic, quality of life, agricultural, and natural resource interests. It will bring together various ordinances and become a more concise and user-friendly document.

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?

Ersel Schuster

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.

Larry Smith

Yes, McHenry County is financially stable at this time with reserves available; there is no need to raise the tax levy at this time. In these economically trying times, raising the tax levy can only have a negative effect on the citizens of McHenry County. With the tax levy frozen, the County Board has more incentive to find creative ways to resolve financial issues.

Michele Aavang

At this point, I feel that it would be wise to keep the tax levy frozen. Although unemployment numbers are improving in the county and some economic recovery is reported, there are families here that are still suffering negative consequences from the past widespread economic downturn. The County remains financially sound and an increase in the levy is not necessary presently.

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