The last meeting of the former Madison County Board finished with a new budget for the next year and farewells to several board members who are retiring or lost their re-election bids last week.
The balance of the county board flipped on Election Day from an 18-10 Democratic majority to a 15-13 Republican majority, with a new Republican chairman after Chairman Alan Dunstan lost his re-election bid. The 29-member county board also has one independent.
As far as county officials can recall, Madison County has not had a Republican majority since before the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932.
The proposed budget totals $127.5 million, which is a $1.6 million reduction from the previous year.
The budget includes $4.9 million in capital projects, including the ongoing renovations at the Madison County jail and courthouse.
The estimated tax levy for 2017 will be 2.6 percent lower than the previous year, which county officials said is the third-straight year for lowering taxes.
“The difficult decisions made over the past several years have put the county in better financial position as it moves forward,” Dunstan said. “We will continue to prudently view county finances over the long term and maintain fiscal responsibility for our taxpayers.”
Dunstan centered his campaign for re-election on Madison County’s strong finances, with a balanced budget and zero debt. He was narrowly defeated in the election by Republican Treasurer Kurt Prenzler.
“30 years of service should never go unrecognized,” said outgoing board member Brenda Roosevelt as she presented Dunstan with his own plaque. He was greeted with multiple loud standing ovation, as was his wife, Linda Dunstan.
“It’s been the best fourteen years of my life,” Dunstan said. “Together I think we did a good job. ... We’ve had our differences, but we have a lot of things to be proud of.”
I am proud of this county, and proud of this county board. I can leave holding my head high.
Madison County Chairman Alan Dunstan
Dunstan said it was hard when “you have a job that you love and you have to give it up,” but gave credit to Prenzler and wished him success as chairman.
“I am proud of this county and proud of this county board,” Dunstan said. “I can leave holding my head high.”
There was no discussion on the budget. The vote in favor of the budget was 24 to 3, with Judy Kuhn (R-Trenton), Steve Adler, R-Alton) and Lisa Ciampoli (R-Collinsville) voting against. Bill Meyer (R-Hamel) and Kelly Tracy (D-Marine) were absent.
In other news, departing board members were honored for their service with commemorative plaques and standing ovations. At least three board members lost their seats in the election earlier this month, and other board members are retiring or chose not to run again. Joe Semanisin served for 18 years with 41 total years in public service; others, such as William Gushleff, were appointees who served a year.
Prenzler was in attendance but did not speak. He is due to be sworn in as chairman at the December meeting.