County Board District 6 candidates sound off on taxes, land issues

District 6 covers county's rural western half

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Two Republican incumbents and a challenger, all three of whom want to defend its agriculture and open space, are running for two open seats for McHenry County Board District 6.

Board members Ersel Schuster and Michele Aavang, and challenger Larry Smith, are seeking the GOP nod for the district, which covers all or parts of 11 townships making up the county’s rural western half, including Harvard, Marengo, Hebron and Union. No Democratic candidates have filed, meaning the March 18 primary will be the de facto election unless the party caucuses in a candidate by the June 2 deadline.

All three candidates cited control of county budgeting and lower taxation as their top priority. Schuster, who owns a rural Woodstock printing business, is one of the County Board’s regular votes against ordinances that she feels grow government’s size, scope and budget.

“I would like to continue this work so we can assure taxpayers that our county board will not slip back into [the] mode of automatically raising the levy to once again grow county government,” Schuster said.

Aavang and Smith also agree that the county should continue freezing its levy. County government for the past two years has voluntarily rejected the inflationary levy increase it is entitled to under the tax cap, citing its stable finances and struggling taxpayers.

Aavang, owner of Willow Lea Stock Farm in Greenwood, said she wants to continue being a voice for county agriculture. She is president of the McHenry County Farm Bureau and was given the chairmanship of the County Board Natural and Environmental Resources Committee, despite just being elected in 2012.

She said she wants to make sure that the Unified Development Ordinance about to go through final review respects the county’s natural resources,

“The UDO should clarify zoning and land use interests and answer questions that concern residents. It must be mindful to protect economic, quality of life, agricultural and natural resource interests,” Aavang said.

Smith, a Harvard realtor and business owner, cited a thorough review and ratification of the UDO as one of his top legislative priorities.

“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,” Smith said.

All three candidates differed on the referendum asking whether the County Board chairman should be popularly elected to four-year terms, rather than chosen from among the 24-member board every two years.

Schuster opposes the idea, alleging it will create entrenched incumbency, increase disputes between the board and chairman, and expand government because it would create a 25th board member. Smith opposes it as well, but criticized Schuster for voting against putting it on the ballot. Aavang, like Smith, supports asking the voters, but is neutral on the issue, saying that both ways to elect a chairman have advantages and disadvantages.

Schuster faces two contested races March 18. She also is running in a three-way race for Seneca 1 precinct committeeman against incumbent Mark Gummerson and candidate Robert Schlenkert.

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