Name: Mark Kownick
Town: Village of Cary
Office sought: Mayor of Cary
1) What skills, qualities or experience do you possess that seperate you from your opponent?
As a former trustee elected Mayor in 2013, I have the experience and reputation of being engaged and collaborative. I'm a huge fan of Ronald Reagan, who said "There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit." A leader employs stellar staff and incredible appointees, and that’s what I have done in Cary.
While managing my Cary business for over 29 years, I've attended 100% of all Village Board meetings during my tenure. I also serve as Vice President of the McHenry County Council of Governments and a committee member on the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus. I put in the hard work to benefit the people of Cary. Meanwhile, my opponent continuously fights our efforts, attacks me and drags down the reputation of our wonderful village.
The truth is we are making excellent strides in Cary. Cary is consistently ranked among the best places to live and raise a family in Illinois. We have more work to do in Cary, but we won't get there through negativity. We can, and will, achieve our full potential by working together positively and continuing to celebrate our strong community spirit.
2) What can the Village of Cary do and what should it do to ease the property tax burden on homeowners?
Property taxes in Illinois are out-of-control, forcing people to uproot their families and seek greener pastures elsewhere. While the village only makes up 5% of your property tax bill, we continue to do everything we can to reduce these taxes for our over-burdened residents.
That is why I have prioritized economic development. Not only does this provide good-paying jobs for our residents, but it also increases revenue for the village to offset property taxes, including sales tax revenue from the 6,000 people who commute into Cary for work every day.
Our economic development successes allowed us to keep our portion of your property tax bills flat my first two years in office and even reduce those taxes the past two years. Moving forward, I will continue to do all I can to lower our property taxes.
3) How would you describe the climate in Cary government for businessses? What needs improvement? What's working?
Since I took office in 2013, we have attracted approximately 74 new businesses to Cary while helping 8 of our existing businesses expand within the Village of Cary. In fact, Sage Products recently announced its expansion over the next few years, adding over 800,000 square feet and creating up to 450 new jobs.
To accomplish this, we took a number of growth-oriented steps. We reduced fees, re-instituted a facade improvement program, resurrected a low-interest loan program, and began working to improve the streetscape of our downtown, making it a more desirable, walkable and entertaining destination.
Over the next four years, I want to work to annex several vacant properties on our borders that we can utilize for commercial development. I want to develop the property around Meyer Material, utilizing an intergovernmental agreement with Algonquin that could invest all retail sales taxes generated by the property into maintaining the future park. I want to attract more commercial development along Route 31 to take advantage of the state’s efforts to make that a major corridor for McHenry County. Furthermore, I want to find the right strategic opportunities for our remaining vacant properties, filling these properties with businesses that meet our residents’ needs.
4) What will be the biggest challenge that Cary residents and their village government will face over the next four years and how will you meet it?
Our budget. We have reduced our employee headcount from 65 to 58 (was as high as 90 in 2011). This is a necessity because our annual state pension obligation for our police department continues to grow, from $485,000 when I took office to over $1 million next year. While we continue to lobby Springfield to get their act together and enact pension reforms, we are taking steps to continue to reduce expenses elsewhere and generate additional revenues through economic development to keep our budget flat and lower property taxes.
I understand we are working with your hard-earned tax dollars and we absolutely must continue to find ways to be more efficient and cut spending. A unique avenue for saving tax dollars is through municipal partnering. Since becoming mayor, the village has taken the lead on intergovernmental cooperation to develop efficiencies within village operations. We work with other communities to bid projects to get lower costs, which has saved taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
We also must continue to invest in infrastructure improvements. To date, we have been able to accomplish this via grants obtained through my relationship with our legislators and leadership in regional organizations.
5) The Pedcor complex has been a divisive issue in Cary for several years? Now that the complex is completed, what are your thoughts?
This is not government, Section 8 or subsidized housing. Pedcor is a privately owned corporation that pays taxes and maintains their property. This helps fulfill our need for workforce housing, a program developed by President Reagan, and fills a parcel that had been vacant for 8+ years.
The state mandates our housing stock be at least 10% affordable housing, and we are only at 6.9%. Not meeting the requirement may affect our funding and grant approvals, which could seriously hamper our economic development efforts.
We moved forward openly and transparently. We took extra care to inform the public and solicit public input, holding numerous meetings over the course of 6 months and welcoming all input. The biggest concern was over crime. So we took extra steps to ensure safety. Residents will be required to pass 4 different background checks and prove they are gainfully employed, credit-worthy and upstanding individuals.
As a result, this development is attracting hard-working individuals into our community, many of whom are young professionals and families (aged 20-30) looking for a place to put down their roots. These beautiful townhouse apartments are already adding value to the area (surrounding home values have increased 18% since 2014).
6) What should Cary residents expect to have happened in Cary by the end of your term?
In addition to bringing more economic activity to the village, improving our infrastructure, reducing spending, and further lowering property taxes, I hope to put an end to all the negativity in our politics. There is a reason why Cary is consistently ranked one of the best places in Illinois to raise a family and find a job.
There is so much that makes our community great. We are a compassionate, family-oriented community with a hometown feel that relates back to our roots and history. We have incredible schools, great parks, and an award-winning trail system. We are centrally located and easily accessible. We have a strong community spirit, with our residents coming together to volunteer their time and talent to provide activities for our children and families. We have a strong business core, including manufacturing and businesses both small and large. And we have the lowest crime rate in McHenry County, leading Value Penguin to name us the 5th safest mid-sized city in Illinois.
It’s time we focused on what makes Cary such a wonderful place to live, work, play, and raise a family.