Board Dems capitalize on rare GOP weakness

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118366511911670.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘Republicans fought to keep the allocation from the General Capital Fund.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118366508618942.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘Democrats insisted funds for the Sheriff’s Department purchase be paid from the Public Safety Tax.‘);

Democrats on the Winnebago County Board enjoyed a more even playing field during the June 28 meeting. Normally, Democrats on the Board are outnumbered 16-12 by Republicans. A combination of Republican absences and vacancies, however, gave Democrats the edge in changing the funding source for a Sheriff’s Department purchase.

When the Resolution Authorizing Allocation of General Capital Funds for Net Motion Software and Server for the Sheriff’s Department came up for passage, Democrats flexed their temporary muscle.

Net motion software would allow deputies to stay connected to the station by way of mobile computers in their squad cars, eliminating the need to return to base for something as simple as filing a report.

County Administrator Steve Chapman indicated the purchase would be funded out of $300,000 in the General Capital Fund set aside for replacement of computers. Chapman said the allocation was made from the General Fund during the budget process.

Doug Aurand (D-3) made a motion to amend the resolution to fund the purchase from the 1 percentage point Public Safety Tax (PST) instead.

“My objection is that it’s real estate tax money,” Aurand argued, noting the expenditure was clearly a matter of public safety and should come from the “1 cent.”

Agreeing with Aurand, George Anne Duckett (D-12) said because technology changes so quickly, the county will likely need every penny of the $300,000 allocation for actual replacement of outdated computers.

“The 1 cent is there,” Duckett noted, “and it is for public safety.”

John Harmon (R-4), on the other hand, doesn’t think the PST should be used to replace General Fund money.

“There has to be some line in the sand over which we do not step about funding things out of the PST,” Harmon argued. “Just because we’ve got new money doesn’t mean it’s found money. It’s still coming out of the same people’s pot.”

Harmon believes the PST should solely be used for the new Justice Center, but Aurand disagrees.

“This is a legitimate expenditure,” Aurand responded. “We wanna offer some sort of a tax relief at some point in time to the taxpayers of Winnebago County.”

Aurand added people paying the 1-percentage point PST are not necessarily the same people paying property taxes.

“There is a difference in the way you look at the tax, and at some point in time, this county should look at ways of reducing real estate taxes for the taxpayers of this county,” Aurand said.

Paul Gorski (D-5) concurred, noting visitors to Winnebago County would help bear the burden, instead of just property tax payers.

Gorski added, “I believe it falls within the realm of the public safety expenditure.”

Rick Pollack (R-13) sided with Harmon, saying the Board has been steadfast in what the tax should be used for. Pollack then took a jab at Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), urging Aurand to take the property tax relief issue up at the state level.

Jim Webster (R-2) acknowledged he wasn’t in complete disagreement with Aurand, but urged the board to be hesitant because costs associated with running the new Justice Center are not yet clear.

“I think we should hold back on dipping into that 1 percent,” Webster suggested, “at least ’til we’ve run that building for 365 days.”

At the previous meeting, board members were told the new jail is already nearing the capacity it is staffed for, and that the county had better start setting aside as much money as possible from the PST.

Duckett reminded her colleagues the Sheriff’s Department will be back next year, asking for another allocation.

“What are you gonna do next year—take it out of the 1 cent?” Duckett asked. “If you’re gonna do that later, you might as well do it now.”

Debate surely would have continued if Chairman Scott Christiansen (R) hadn’t called for a vote on the amendment. The roll call settled along party lines, with only Pete MacKay (R-5) crossing the aisle to join Democrats on the issue.

John Ekberg (R-10), Dave Fiduccia (R-4), Frank Gambino (R-14), Harmon, Bob Kinnison (R-10), Randy Olson (R-1), Tom Owens (R-1), Pollack, John Sweeney (R-14), Webster and Dave Yeske (R-2) voted against Aurand’s motion to fund the purchase out of the PST.

The absences of District 9 Republicans Mary Ann Aiello and Patti Thayer, combined with vacancies left by Ray Graceffa (R-7) and Dave Krienke (R-3), proved fatal to Republican resistance to the amendment.

Republicans weren’t done fighting, though, and a motion was made to send the resolution back to the Finance Committee. Aurand, however, wouldn’t hear of it.

“We don’t need to send this back,” Aurand noted. “Let’s pass it tonight. We know it’s a critical situation.”

Aurand explained the Finance Committee could draft an ordinance for the budget amendment to present at the next meeting, at which time rules could be suspended and the ordinance approved.

Aurand, Duckett, Karen Elyea (D-11), Angie Goral (D-7), Gorski, Bob Hastings (D-13), Pearl Hawks (D-6), Karen Hoffman (D-11), Phil Johnson (D-8), MacKay, Mel Paris (D-8), Dorothy Redd (D-6) and L.C. Wilson (D-12) were enough to block sending the resolution back to committee.

Later in the evening, Republicans regained some ground when Kyle Logan (R-3) was sworn in to replace Krienke, who stepped down from the board after being elected Roscoe village president in April.

The required budget amendment ordinance is expected to be voted on at the July 12 meeting.

from the July 5-10, 2007, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!