ST. CHARLES – With the April 9 election less than two weeks away, the city’s four mayoral hopefuls fielded questions Thursday from members of Union Latina St. Charles at the St. Charles Public Library.
The candidates – Jotham Stein, Jake Wyatt, John Rabchuk and Ray Rogina – addressed questions about business revitalization, property taxes, downtown plans and the city’s role in accepting people of different ethnic groups before answering questions from the audience.
Stein billed himself as the only candidate saying he would lower the city’s property taxes. He would do so by bringing more businesses to St. Charles, thus lessening the burden on homeowners, he said, noting taxes recently went up 5.2 percent.
Rogina, a 3rd Ward alderman, disagreed with Stein’s claim, saying St. Charles has charged its citizens the same dollar figure in recent years. With respect to a balanced budget, Rogina said, revenue is key because the city has cut 11 percent of its expenses, and cutting more would compromise services.
As a businessman, Rabchuk said, he has followed the lean principle, which aims for efficiency. While the city has controlled expenses fairly well, it has yet to go through the lean process, he said, also noting the importance of business revitalization.
Wyatt proposed quarterly meetings with other taxing bodies to review budgets and their effect on taxpayers.
He agreed that business growth is needed to support the city’s budget. Before shifting the focus on recruitment, the city should see what it can do to help existing businesses, Wyatt said, proposing a small-business owners forum.
Rogina supports lifting the restrictions imposed by the downtown overlay district, recruiting foreign industrial business and having business incubators that would provide startup money.
Rabchuk said the city has a reputation of being bad for business because the hurdles are high and the rules change. St. Charles needs leadership around a vision, he said.
Recruiting businesses is Stein’s priority, he said, noting he has more than 20 years of experience advising businesses of all sizes. He would refocus the economic development department and work with other organizations, including the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce and the St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau, to recruit businesses, he said.