Highland News Leader

Chairman candidates trade barbs over budget

Alan Dunstan
Alan Dunstan

Madison County Chairman Alan Dunstan and county Treasurer Kurt Prenzler threw political punches at one another over the county’s budget last week.

Dunstan, a Democrat who has been chairman since 2002, is facing a challenge from Prenzler, the county treasurer and only Republican in countywide office.

In a news release issued Oct. 20, Prenzler said that $2.15 million budget cuts county officials touted the week prior was “deceptive” and cuts took away from “people who need it most.”

“I’m shocked officials are praising the proposed budget cuts, when $2 million was taken from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP,” Prenzler said. “I don’t think they should be taking credit for a reduction of state and federal grants as budget savings. The county either gets the money or it doesn’t, and we don’t have role in that.”

Answering the release, Dunstan said that Prenzler’s statements indicate he “does not understand the budgeting process or the sources of revenue for programs administered by the county.”

“LIHEAP is funded by grants from the state of Illinois and the federal government. Madison County does not control the amount of funds in those budgets. The budget we have submitted to the County Board reflects the grants which are being awarded to the county,” Dunstan said in his own release.

Dunstan said Prenzler is attempting to create a narrative that does not exist.

“Madison County has administered millions of dollars in grant funds for low income families in the county,” Dunstan said. “We will continue to administer those monies based on grants received from the state and federal governments.”

But Prenzler said Dunstan could not answer a County Board member’s question during a recent Finance and Government Operations Committee where cuts had been made.

Prenzler said the county has padded its budget for years and has surplus — by design.

“But instead of making real cuts, they reduce the LIHEAP funding,” he said. “This is the type of smoke and mirrors officials use.”

Prenzler said that, rather than slash the surplus, the County Board has reduced the funding that assists people in paying their heating bills, as well as more than $180,000 in weatherization assistance.

“They are taking credit for something they don’t have control over,” he said. “Cheering these budget cuts as savings is wrong. It doesn’t make any sense to cheer cuts that will put families out in the cold.”

Dunstan said that Prenzler is simply trying to shift criticism away from his own office’s finances.

“Once again, Mr. Prenzler is simply pandering over an issue that does not exist,” Dunstan said. “He is trying to deflect an issue raised by Republican and Democratic members at last week’s Finance Committee meeting where it was disclosed that over a two-year period, he gave excessive pay increases — totaling $79,332 — with several of the raises resulting in pay increases of more than 60 percent.”