County chair candidates clash on taxes, spending, ethics

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012 7:23 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Sandy Bressner – sbressner@shawmedia.com)
Kane County Board Chairman candidate Sue Klinkhamer answers a question while fellow candidates (from left) Bill Sarto, Chris Lauzen and Kevin Burns look on Monday during a candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Central Kane County at the Norris Cultural Arts Center in St. Charles.

ST. CHARLES – Taxes and county spending again dominated the discussion when the candidates for Kane County Board Chairman took the stage together for the second time.

Republican primary opponents State Sen. Chris Lauzen of Aurora and Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns shared the stage with the candidates seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination, former St. Charles Mayor Sue Klinkhamer and former Carpentersville Village President Bill Sarto, Monday night during a candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Central Kane County at the Norris Cultural Arts Center in St. Charles.

The candidates again differed on how to address concerns with not only how much the county government spends, but also how much it collects.

Lauzen repeated his pledge to freeze the county’s tax levy and reform how the county spends money.

“It makes no sense that our property values keep going down, but our taxes keep going up,” Lauzen said.

Burns focused on his plans to create an economic development position, put a moratorium on the road impact fees collected by the county, find innovative techniques and support increased fees to help pay for “essential services,” such as court services and county jail operations.

Sarto also called for the county to cut its taxes, saying he believes the county’s portion of the property tax bill is too large compared to other counties in the country.

He said cutting the county’s property taxes will help people avoid foreclosure and keep tax money flowing in the county.

He also said he believes taxes could be cut substantially enough to benefit homeowners without cutting services.

Klinkhamer, however, said she would not commit to supporting a tax cut.

She said the economic growth that fueled increases in county tax revenue is in the past, and current county services should be maintained.

“A little under 5 percent of your tax bill goes to the county [as opposed to other units of local government],” Klinkhamer said. “It’s important to keep the rate and keep the services we have.”

The candidates also differed on how the county should deal with ethical complaints against county officials.

Lauzen continued to push his belief that there is a perception among voters that a “culture of cronyism” exists in Kane County’s government. He again pushed for a strong ethics ordinance with “teeth” to punish offenders.

He pledged to decline campaign contributions from no-bid contractors and pushed for the creation of a database that citizens can search for contributions made by county contractors to county officials.

Sarto also said he believed the county needed to end “pay to play” politics. However, he offered no specific steps, other than calling for the passage of a new ethics ordinance.

And Burns said he believes the county should have passed the ethics ordinance that the county board sent back to committee weeks ago and then amended it, with such items as the creation of an ethics panel appointed by the Kane County State’s Attorney.

Klinkhamer, however, said any ethics complaints should simply be taken to the state’s attorney for action.

“That simple,” she said.

Voters will choose a Democrat and a Republican nominee March 20 for Kane County Board Chairman.

Current Kane County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay is not seeking reelection this year, opting to run instead for the Illinois Senate.

• Read more Kane County Chronicle election coverage by visiting ssm.kcchronicle.com/election.

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