Ann B. Maine: Candidate Profile:
Name; Ann B. Maine
Office sought: Lake County Board District 21
Occupation: Senior Lecturer, Biology Department, Lake Forest College
Education: B.A. Williams College, Williamstown, MA; M.S. and Ph.D. in Biochemistry, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY.
Civic involvement: Founder and volunteer -- Gardening with Incarcerated Youth (continuing); Lincolnshire Garden Club; previous Chair of Scouting for Food for Northeast Illinois Council of Boy Scouts; volunteer 10+ years at soup kitchen and food Pantry, Waukegan, IL; Assistant coach, Stevenson High School Science Olympiad team (15 years-present); other community involvement includes helping in schools, coaching soccer teams, assisting with Boy Scout merit badges, religious education teacher.
Elected offices held: Trustee, Village of Lincolnshire, 1997-2002
Questions & Answers
Question 1: If you are an incumbent, describe your main contributions. Tell us of any important initiatives you've led.
Forest Preserve District
• Initiated legislative change that allowed 2008 bonds to be used over 10 years instead of 5 years, keeping tax rate lower, allowing more land to be purchased without increasing tax levy
• Changed Capital Improvement Plan to 10 years, ensuring long term financial stability and stable tax levy
• Removed $7.5 million in projects from Capital Improvement Plans to ensure balanced budgets out 10 years
• Initiated alignment of fiscal year with calendar year, resulting in greater staff efficiencies and more accurate department budgets
• Encouraged developing a strategy for long term sustainability based on data driven decisions and looking at the long-term operating costs for any project.
• Secured Lake Michigan water for Countryside Manor, North Libertyville estates neighborhoods when their well water had radium contamination
• Initiated Conservation Pricing of water for Lake County systems -- to ensure long term viability of water resources
• Spear headed creation of the Des Plaines River Watershed Group to find novel, cost effective solutions to improved water quality
• Required scientific analysis of wetland program to ensure the created wetlands functioned as intended to provide water retention and habitat diversity
Question 2: What is the single biggest need in your district?
Property tax relief is needed in District 21 and throughout Lake County. While the County and Forest Preserve typically account for 10 percent of a tax bill, it is still incumbent upon us to look at each dollar we spend. The Forest Preserve levy is down about 20 percent from 10 years ago. For many homeowners school districts represent 60-75% of the property tax bill. The high property taxes are especially difficult for those who are retired and no longer using the school system. People are forced out of their homes as their property taxes exceed their mortgage. The high tax bill also makes it difficult for some people to sell their homes. A multifaceted approach is needed including prioritization, consolidation of services and greater efficiencies. The County's efforts include shared bids on goods, leading a working group on Regional 9-1-1 Consolidation with the potential to save millions of dollars and improve response times. I also work with different units of government to ensure we save tax payer dollars, such as shared pedestrian paths.
District 21, with the Des Plaines River (DPR) and tributaries running through it is also especially susceptible to flooding issues. Almost 80 percent of the DPR is public land which prevents additional development. Both the Forest Preserve and the Stormwater Management Commission have had success in increasing the acres of wetlands and stabilizing stream banks which mitigate flood damage. But more is needed. Increased restoration efforts, infrastructure improvements and decreasing impervious surfaces can all aid in this issue.
Question 3: Should the county government eliminate procurement cards, or p-cards, for county board members? Should county board members even have expense accounts? County board members in some other counties don't, their salaries cover work expenses. Should employees' p-cards be eliminated, too?
Yes, P-cards should be eliminated for county board members. I haven't used one in more than 7 years. Instead I have paid personally for expenses. Board members are provided with the ability to send e-newsletters. I have found these an effective way to communicate regularly with constituents throughout District 21. Since not everyone is comfortable with electronic communication some expenses related to mailings could be supported without a P-card. All correspondence, no matter what format, should be informative in nature and not use partisan language or disparage colleagues. I would also support the inclusion of the notice: "This mailing was prepared, published and mailed at tax payer expense." General mailings to a Board member's district should not be allowed within 60 days of an election in which the incumbent is on the ballot.
There are instances when employees need a P-card; for work crews it may be more effective for them to go to a local hardware store and purchase the needed supplies. Some Health Department programs have grants that specifically support the purchase of meals and social outings for clients. In these situation p-cards can be utilized. But the process of monitoring them must be significantly improved and transparent.
Regular review of all programs, including p-cards is important. I look forward to the report at the end of September that is examining p-card use. Illegal use of P-cards can never be tolerated.
Question 4: Is the county doing enough to control expenses? What additional, specific steps do you recommend?
During the past 5 years the county has frozen the tax levy twice (including this year) and once increased the levy based only on new construction. The lack of a State budget with unknown impacts of State allocations for agencies that provide funding for Lake County and the one-year 10 percent decrease in income tax payments and 2 percent surcharge on the RTA tax made County budgeting a challenge. In addition, new problems arise such as the Opioid Crisis which require new resources. We look for savings based on changing needs, use of technology and outsourcing where appropriate. We have taken the following steps to save money: decreased the number of employees by 10 percent through restructuring including the planning and IT departments; we evaluated the HR department and will assess Finance next for additional changes. Our Accelerated Retirement Option will provide millions in savings as will a new payroll system. We have also expanded our shared services in areas including building inspections and Sheriff's patrol.
I am proud that under my leadership the Forest Preserve District has been able to expand land acquisition and restoration efforts in the face of a 20 percent decrease in the tax levy in part by focusing on our core mission.
The next county board needs to 1) make a stronger case and engage citizens on consolidation opportunities 2) take a hard look at the services provided by the county, 3) determine which are needed and 4) if the county is the best entity to provide the service.
Question 5: Historically, county board meetings have been free of partisanship and political antics -- but party-line fighting has become more noticeable in recent years. How do you feel about that?
This assessment is accurate, it is unfortunate and I am disappointed by it. As President of the Forest Preserves I appointed a Democrat as Chair of the important Finance Committee because I thought she would do the best job. Some people were upset with me, but it was more important to me that policy and progress be put ahead of party politics. For years Republican County Board Chairmen have appointed members of the Democratic Party as committee chairs. It is a real loss for Lake County that the partisanship seen at the State and National level is contaminating our local Board and interfering with our ability to serve our residents. We are elected to serve our entire district, not members of one party or another. When Board members turn policy issues into political agendas, it decreases the public's confidence in the board. I hope this party-line fighting passes soon, we return to regular order and the Board turns its complete attention to the needs of Lake County and work together for what should be our common goal: a stronger, more vibrant and thriving Lake County.