Running for McHenry mayor are local business owner Wayne Jett and former mayor Steve Cuda, who previously served two terms as mayor from 1993 to 2001. The winner of the election will succeed outgoing Mayor Susan Low.
At the Northwest Herald’s editorial board interview with the candidates Wednesday, Cuda and Jett had opposing views about how to try and save money for residents.
“If you go over our budget, it’s a balanced budget – plain and simple,” Jett said.
“I think the city has done a good job keeping [the tax levy] flat, and decreasing it by 3 percent the last three months I think is enough, considering the fact that we have $45 million in roadways that need to get done,” Jett said.
However, Cuda disagreed with his opponent regarding the budget.
“The city is not operating on a balanced budget, the city is operating at a surplus, and it’s a significant surplus,” Cuda said.
Cuda brought up how the city’s reserve fund, which is used in case of emergencies, is at $7.5 million. Cuda’s plan is to give some of that money back.
“That (money) should be more than sufficient to cover any shortfall in revenues that we receive from the state,” Cuda said.
Cuda said his campaign has been focused on reducing the city’s share of the real estate taxes by 10 percent.
As for his opponent, Jett said he also agrees that property taxes are too high, but lowering them would require a long-term plan to avoid cuts in services and reductions in infrastructure investments.
“There’s major concerns on my behalf as far as cutting city tax,” Jett said.
“We need to invest in our infrastructure,” Jett said. “Without us investing in our infrastructure and our community at a higher rate, we can’t expect businesses to invest in their properties and their businesses as well.”
Jett said he wants to put a plan in place to address city road repair issues and drainage improvements, as one reason for not lowering the city tax right now is the flooding issues with Lakeland Park subdivision, which has a long history of having drainage problems.
“With a state with no budget and a deathly downturn where the state has no funding, I think it’d be putting the city in a financial situation in years to come if you start cutting half a million each year out of the budget if you don’t have the sales revenue to offset that,” Jett said.
Cuda said he recently talked to a 77-year-old McHenry resident who has commercial properties in McHenry County and is leaving the city because he’s not willing to pay high real estate taxes. Hearing similar stories from local residents, Cuda said he believes reducing real estate taxes should be a priority.
“A $500,000 decrease in the amount collected per real estate taxes is not going to break the budget (and) is not going to curtail any services that we provide,” Cuda said.