April 2nd Ballot Information for District 3 Residents – Plenty of Reasons to Vote

April 2nd Ballot Information for District 3 Residents – Plenty of Reasons to Vote

Lots of reasons to come out and vote on April 2nd in District 3, for Lindenhurst, Lake Villa, Round Lake Beach , and Round Lake Heights, including several Bond Referendums.

Here are the issues on your ballots: Listed with contested races closer to the top.

Bond Questions

Lake Villa School District #41: 2 Questions, totaling $50,000,000.

Question 1: Proposition To Issue $34,200,000 School Building Bonds. (Yes or No)
Shall the Board of Education of Lake Villa Community Consolidated School District Number 41, Lake County, Illinois, improve the sites of, build and equip additions to and alter, repair and equip existing buildings, including, without limitation, constructing security and health/life safety improvements, increasing accessibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act, maintaining infrastructure and renovating learning areas, and issue bonds of said School District to the amount of $34,200,000 for the purpose of paying the costs thereof?
Question 2: Proposition To Increase Debt Service Extension Base (Yes or No)
Shall the debt service extension base under the Property Tax Extension Law for Lake Villa Community Consolidated School District Number 41, Lake County, Illinois, for payment of principal and interest on limited bonds be increased from $442,810 to $1,225,000 for the 2019 levy year and all subsequent levy years?
$ Summary: Per the District 41 Fact Sheet, based on a $250,000 home value:
  1.  If ‘Yes’ to both bond questions, Residents will pay approximately $601/year for the bond debt starting in 2021, down from $813.
  2. If ‘No’ to both bond questions, Residents will pay $0/year for the bond debt starting in 2021, down from $813.

Village of Round Lake Heights: 1 Question, totaling $2,700,000

Question: Proposition For Public Water System Improvements (Yes or No)
Shall the Village of Round Lake Heights, Lake County, Illinois, for the purpose of paying the costs of improvements and extensions to the existing water and water supply system of said Village, including such improvements and extensions as are sufficient to provide for the storage and distribution thereof, and for expenses incident thereto, issue its bonds to the amount of $2,700,000 for the purpose of paying the costs thereof?

$ Summary: Per the Daily Herald, based on a $200,000 home value:
  1. If ‘Yes’, Residents will pay $388/year for the bond debt.
  2. If ‘No’, Residents will pay $0/year for the bond debt.

Municipal/Board Elections

Lindenhurst Village President: (Vote for 1)

  • Ryan Brandes – Lindenhurst United For Change
  • Dominic Marturano – Lindenhurst Best Choice

Lindenhurst Clerk (Vote for 1)

  • Jody Stoughtenger – Lindenhurst Best Choice

Lindenhurst Trustee (Vote for 3)

  • Stacey Kramer – Lindenhurst United For Change
  • Trak Patel – Lindenhurst United For Change
  • Cassandra Slade – Lindenhurst United For Change
  • Dawn Czarny – Lindenhurst Best Choice
  • Patrick John Dunham – Lindenhurst Best Choice
  • Heath Rosten – Lindenhurst Best Choice

Grayslake Community High School District 127 (Vote for 4)

  • Edwin Brown
  • Hal Sloan
  • Jonathan Reinoso
  • Kathleen Conlon Wasik
  • Erin Westphal

Trustees of the College of Lake County (Vote for 2)

  • Julia Byrne Shroka
  • Timothy Powell
  • Vaseem Iftekhar

Grant High School Board (Vote for 3)

  • Robert Yanik
  • John Lee Jared
  • Kathy Kusiak
  • Ivy Jo Fleming

Millburn Consolidated School District #24 Board (Vote for 4)

  • Carissa Casbon
  • Stephen Gray
  • Sean Coleman
  • Irshad Khan
  • Jeffrey Flary
  • Ardre Orie

Regional Board of Schools Trustee – 6 Yr Term (Vote for 3)

  • Julie Gonka
  • Alison Baker Frank Packer
  • Chase Thomas
  • Phillip DeRuntz

Regional Board of Schools Trustee – Unexpired 2 Yr Term (Vote for 1)

  • Joye Williams

Lake Villa Trustee (Vote for 3)

  • Karen Harms
  • Jake Cramond
  • Jeff Nielsen (Write in)

Lake Villa Public Library Trustee (Vote for 4)

  • Barbara Venturi
  • Kathleen Rettinger
  • Fergal Gallagher
  • Douglas Nieman

Lake Villa District 41 School Board (Vote for 4)

  • Joanne Osmond
  • Joe Dunne
  • Michael Conway
  • Debbie Walsh

Fox Waterway Agency (Vote for 1)

  • James Meyer

Round Lake Beach Trustee (Vote for 3)

  • Kevin Wallace
  • Margie Cleveland
  • Paul Stout

Round Lake Beach Clerk (Vote for 1)

  • Dana Hillesheim

Commissioner – Round Lake Area Park District (Vote for 1)

  • Patrick Duby

Antioch Community High School District 117 School Board (Vote for 3)

  • Ellen Ipsen
  • Geoff Guttschow
  • Sandy Jacobs
Lake County Board’s Dick Barr participates in NACo’s DC Legislative Conference

Lake County Board’s Dick Barr participates in NACo’s DC Legislative Conference

 Administration and congressional leaders highlight county role in serving residents

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Lake County Board Member, Dick Barr, joined nearly 2,000 other county leaders in Washington, D.C. for the National Association of Counties (NACo) annual Legislative Conference March 2-6.  Participants met with members of the Trump administration and Congress on key issues like disaster recovery, the opioid and substance abuse epidemic, Veteran issues and revitalizing American infrastructure.

“As a new County Board Member, I wanted to see the value that a nationwide conference of County officials could provide. I was blown away at the quality and quantity of information available, the A-List of speakers, and the personal contacts, not just U.S. Congressmen, Senators and their aids, but Federal agency, and other county official contacts from all over the country to share experiences with,” said Barr. “I must have walked away with 50-60 business cards of leaders throughout the country whom I can call on for valuable information, to bounce ideas off, and to see how they solved issues that are currently affecting Lake County.”

“Decisions made by the White House, Congress and federal courts have major impacts on our ability to lead our communities and pursue a better future,” said NACo President Greg Cox. “This conference is an opportunity to strengthen our relationship with our federal partners as we help residents forge pathways to live well and thrive.”

In meetings with lawmakers and administration officials, county leaders outlined several key federal policy priorities including:

  • Promoting county infrastructure priorities in a comprehensive infrastructure package
  • Supporting the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and Secure Rural Schools (SRS) programs, which honor federal commitments to public lands and timber counties
  • Promoting mental health, substance use disorders treatment and criminal justice reform, and
  • Boosting broadband deployment and accessibility while preserving local zoning authority.

As part of its policy advocacy, NACo launched an updated “Counties Matter” campaign to illustrate counties’ vast role in advancing America’s policy priorities at the local level. NACo also launched a new and improved County Explorer. The tool, which allows users to map data at the county level, now works on mobile devices and is more user-friendly.

“When I first was introduced to the “County Explorer” tool, I was amazed at how much data is available to us through our association with NACo. At the click of a mouse we can compare our county, based on size, demographic, population, rural/urban landscape on metrics such as economy growth, opioid deaths, number of hospitals, veteran population, homeless, affordable housing, number of exports and imports, along with hundreds of other metrics,” said Barr. “Being able to access this data instantly, and printing a beautifully formatted and easy to read report is an invaluable tool for advocacy when speaking with our local, state and federal leaders.”

Conference participants heard from congressional and administration leaders, including U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, U.S. Senators Joni Ernst, Amy Klobuchar and Marco Rubio, Assistant to the President and Senior Counselor Kellyanne Conway and Co-Founder of America Online Steve Case.

Counties officials were very active on Capitol Hill, meeting with senators and representatives on key County issues.  The conference featured three briefings on Capitol Hill: one on strengthening human services; one on fixing the FAST Act, focusing on transportation infrastructure; and another on how counties are reimaging health care in county jails. NACo also announced a joint task force with the National Sheriffs’ Association to examine the Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy, which strips federal health and veterans’ benefits from individuals upon admission to jail – not upon conviction – leading to increased recidivism.

Dozens of county officials also rallied at a press conference with a bipartisan group of congressional leaders to underscore support for key public lands programs, Secure Rural Schools and Payments in Lieu of Taxes. Watch the press conference here.

There were more than two dozen policy workshops featuring county officials and other leaders in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. They focused on topics like the opioid crisis; early childhood investments; workforce and economic development; transportation and infrastructure; public health and safety; mental health and jails; and cybersecurity and technology.

“The NACo Conference was just the beginning. Now I need to take advantage of the information I learned and work with my colleagues on the Board to evaluate how Lake County can benefit from these best practices,” said Barr. “Cultivating the relationships obtained in Washington over the coming months will be instrumental in building on the concepts gathered at the conference and solidifying ideas to benefit all residents of Lake County.”

Improved Transparency – Lake County to Film Standing Committee Meetings

Improved Transparency – Lake County to Film Standing Committee Meetings

Lake County to Film Standing Committee Meetings

Beginning the week of Feb. 25, all Lake County Board standing committee meetings will be available to watch on www.lakecounty.tv and Lake County’s public access television channel (LCTV).  At the committee level, board members spend a significant amount of time discussing and evaluating significant financial and policy matters before these items are sent to the full board for final approval. Filming committee meetings will allow the public to see all the work that goes on at the committee level and have a deeper understanding of the issues.

“I’m proud of what our board continues to accomplish around transparency,” said Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart. “We want residents to hear the concerns and deliberations of programs and services that takes place at these meetings. Often times, people that want to attend meetings can’t because of their busy schedules. Filming all standing committee meetings will make this information accessible to all Lake County residents.”

The Financial and Administrative Committee approved filming standing committees at its Feb. 7 meeting to enhance transparency and increase access to local government.

“We are excited to be able to enhance transparency by showing the work being done in committee meetings at no additional cost to taxpayers,” said Financial and Administrative Committee Chair Paul Frank. “Lake County Board meetings are already being broadcast, so the equipment and staff resources are currently in place. That means we can film committee meetings within our current structure.”

The meetings will not be broadcast live but recordings will be available within 48 hours after the committee meeting, and can then be viewed any time after that at www.lakecounty.tv. Each meeting will be indexed, which provides the ability for online viewers to jump to a specific place in meetings/agendas.

The meetings also will be replayed frequently on LCTV, which is available on Comcast Cable, either channel 18 or 30, depending on where you live in the county. AT&T Customers can view LCTV on channel 99. View the LCTV Coverage Area.

Lindenfest, the Epitome of Community

Lindenfest, the Epitome of Community

This weekend I was so honored and grateful to have the opportunity to spend so much time with residents of Lindenhurst and Lake Villa at the Annual Lindenfest Festival and parade.

Not only was it a genuine good time for me and my family, it was such a beautiful example of how communities come together to make things happen and be with each other in a fun and happy environment.

On a more solemn note, it was also uplifting to see so many people from the community come out for an impromptu prayer vigil to pray for the rapid recovery of the the sweet little girl who was struck by a vehicle Friday night in Lindenhurst.  Members of the community from all around, Lindenfest committee members, village officials, police and even family of the little girl, Leah, all showed up to share their prayers and wishes for her recovery.

I ask that everyone please continue to pray for Leah and her family. I’d also like to ask for everyone to pray for the poor driver who was caught by surprise and now must personally deal with the horrible tragic accident.

Lastly, I want to thank to 60+ supporters who braved the heat to walk with me and my family in Saturday’s parade. You are all an amazing group of people, and I am truly humbled by your support!

Lake County Needs to Reevaluate it’s P-Card use for Board Members

Lake County Needs to Reevaluate it’s P-Card use for Board Members

In light of recent allegations of abuse with the County’s P-Card system, I would like to propose a replacement system for the County Board Members to contemplate for Members.

While some have suggested a simple reimbursement plan to eliminate P-Cards, unfortunately that does not solve the problem, as well has the unintended consequence of utilizing additional staff time, which I believe would cost more than any savings to the tax payer.

The problem lies in the gap between use of public funds and how it is approved for use. A simple reimbursement plan would not solve the question of appropriate use of tax payer money. It would be unfair to any employee of the county to be in a position of having to challenge elected officials they report to, especially when those officials have the ability to fire them.

To bridge that gap, I suggest a reimbursement (or prior approved requisition in the case of large expenses) system that goes through the finance committee to be voted on by all the Committee members.

This would allow expenses to be approved or rejected in a public forum on a non partisan basis, would not take up additional staff time, and add a TRANSPARENT layer of ACCOUNTABILITY to the process.

I also believe the Board needs to evaluate its existing rules (which they are in the process of doing now) and focus on creating a very clear cut and common sense list of purposes and rules that govern elected officials’ use of tax payer funds.

If elected, I will push for the discontinued use of Board Member P-Cards, and further vow to not accept one for my own use.

Grant High School District 124 to See HUGE Drop in Property Taxes for Residents

Grant High School District 124 to See HUGE Drop in Property Taxes for Residents

Congratulations to the School Board of Grant High School District #124, who has paid off it’s bonds and have chosen to give the tax payers a real break.

Very often school boards see paying off of debt as an opportunity to raise more debt under the guise of “Keeping taxes the same”. The Board of District 124 has decided to give the tax payers a break instead.

Here is the text of their announcement:

With the green grass of spring arriving shortly, property owners within Grant Community High School boundaries will see more green in their pockets too!
Property tax owners will soon be seeing a savings in their tax bills. In December of 2017, the District paid off all of the debt that was associated with the facility improvements over the years to accommodate enrollment growth. The tax rate for Grant Community High School is dropping over 25 percent and the owner of a $250,000 home will see our portion of their property taxes drop $665 this year. The District is thankful for our supportive
taxpayers, whose dedication to Grant Community High School have given us the facilities that we have. We are grateful to have the debt paid off and be able to provide some tax relief to property owners.
The District administration will continue to monitor the tax rates each year and are committed to working with the Board to find ways to ease the taxpayers’ burden.

Dick Barr Tours Future Home of Busy Brains Children’s Museum in Lake Villa

Dick Barr Tours Future Home of Busy Brains Children’s Museum in Lake Villa

Had the opportunity to meet with the Directors of the Busy Brains Museum Foundation for a tour of the future home of their Children’s Museum.

They have such a vision for this place and the space and location are phenomenal. I was most interested in hearing about their plans to preserve as much as possible of the incredible vintage murals on both the North and South walls. While the South wall mural, painted most likely during the 1950’s is mostly salvageable, the older mural, likely from the 1910’s has sustained significant water damage.  I had asked them if they would be willing to carefully break the wall up into segments and auction off as a fundraiser. They agreed with the idea and they will look into.  I know I, for one, would love a section of the wall for my home or office.

They indicated they are about $300,000 away from opening their doors, and are looking to the community and businesses to help raise the funds.

Here are some photos of our tour.

Lake County District 3 Property Tax Breakdown

Lake County District 3 Property Tax Breakdown

It is no secret that the main impetus for my desire to run for Lake County Board is based on the incredibly onerous property tax system here in Illinois and Lake County.
Our taxes here in Lake County are 300 times higher than the national average and 200 times higher than the state average.
It is important to know why, before we can start to identify how to fix it.
Villages often get the blame for high taxation, since they are the taxing body closest to the people. In reality, however, most local villages tend to be very diligent stewards of the tax dollars they are entrusted with.
I have charted the property taxes for the four communities in Lake County Board District 3; Lindenhurst, Lake Villa, Round Lake Beach and Round Lake Heights. I broke down the data by High School District, since that is the easiest division for illustration purposes. I based the data on a home assessed at a fair market value of $200,000. The school category includes elementary, middle and high schools where applicable. The data is based on 1 representative home for each of the high school districts.  Numbers will change slightly with different homes that have different primary schools feeding it, however, the differences are negligible and non-consequential to the point.
As you can see, the local taxing bodies, individually, have relatively low levies. In fact, all of them combined only account for about 35% of the entire tax bill. It is only when you bring in to view the school levy, that an obvious problem becomes more apparent.   Schools account for approximately 65% of the tax bill, yet so much time, effort and money has been spent trying to tell us the problem is our villages and our townships.
Are schools the main culprits in our property tax burden?  Absolutely not.  Schools are necessary for the education and foundation of our children and of course they have to spend money.  Yes, I believe there are things the state can do to help our districts save money: Consolidating school districts, getting rid of unfunded state mandates to name a couple.  But the real problem lies not with the schools themselves, yet how they are funded.
In all of our neighboring states, the state covers about 50% of the school funding, with the remainder being covered by federal funding and property taxes. In Lake County, most of our funding comes from property taxes, in many cases as high as 90%.
It is this funding formula that is making Lake County Property taxes one of the highest in the nation.
Additionally, as the Forest Preserve continues to acquire new land, that land gets removed from the property tax rolls. Every dollar of real estate acquired by the Forest preserve is no longer sharing in the paying of property taxes into perpetuity. Over the past 10 years, almost $200 Million dollars in real estate was permanently removed from the property tax rolls. The tax that would have been generated from that property is then distributed to all of the remaining property tax payers to make up.
Additionally, that land can no longer be developed by residential or business development that could add to the tax base and further reduce our tax burden.
Open space is great, but we must approach it with a more careful and measured approach.
If you have any questions, or would like to learn more, please feel free to drop me a line at dickbarrforcountyboard@gmail.com.