At a candidate’s forum last week, County Board District 1 candidates sounded off on various issues, including the tax levy, health insurance and a controversial raise proposal.
During the event hosted by WSPY the candidates fielded questions from area reporters and audience members during the brief session. County Board Chairman John Purcell, who is seeking re-election, was unable to attend the forum.
Candidates were asked if they would take the health insurance provided to elected officials.
Matt Prochaska and Amy Cesich said they would not accept the insurance. Cesich said she did not believe part time officials “should have better access (to insurance) than the people they serve.”
Judy Gilmour did not provide a definitive answer, saying she would take a look at the plans after she is elected.
Incumbent Bob Davidson said he takes the insurance.
John Shaw, also an incumbent, said he does not currently take the plan, nor does he turn in mileage reports to the county.
The candidates and incumbents mostly agreed in condemning proposed controversial pay raises to four county department heads, Andy Nicolletti, supervisor of assessments, Anna Payton, animal control warden, Angela Zubko, the senior planner at the county, and Jim Smiley, facilities director. The proposed budgets give Nicolletti and Payton raises of $4,000 a year and $3,000 a year to Zubko and Smiley. In contrast the other county employees would receive pay raises of $975 in the proposed budget, according to the Herald News. Davidson called it a political stunt. He said the finance committee sent a memo to each department head to plan for 1 percent raises in their budgets. He said the high raises for the department heads is something he cannot support.
Gilmour agreed, saying it seemed as if the raises were due to politics, rather than performance reviews. She said any pay hikes should “be done in a fair and appropriate way.”
Cesich said there is a risk of losing good employees if they do not receive pay that is equal to similar roles in other counties. She said board members need to look at the budget and see if raises at that level are appropriate.
Prochaska said it was disturbing that four employees received a “double percentage boost” to their salary.
As a board member Shaw said he did not feel it was appropriate for him to comment on the raises during a candidate’s event.
Candidates also discussed what kind of response the county should take if a non-binding referendum calling for a 20 percent reduction in tax levy is supported by the voters.
All of the candidates said they would work to reduce unnecessary spending by the county, but said finding reductions of 20 percent could be difficult.
Davidson said the levy is not the problem, it’s the budget. He said if people decide they do not want services provided by the county, he would support a call to end funding those services.
Prochaska said he supports the proposal and called for keeping only what is “necessary and proper” in the budget, although in his time allotted he did not specify those line items.
Cesich signed the petition to get the referendum on the ballot, saying it sends a strong message to the board about “irresponsible spending,” however she said cutting 20 percent from the budget could have “huge ramifications” on future growth in the county.
Each of the candidates also agreed on a strong working relationship between county and municipal governments, touting the Yorkville River Road Bridge project as a successful effort.
The election is Nov. 6. Voters may choose five candidates for District 1.
Click here for a roundup of the Coroner's portion of the forum.
Click here for a roundup of the Circuit Clerk's portion of the forum.