NAME: Alan J. Dunstan
IMMEDIATE FAMILY: Linda Dunstan (spouse)
OCCUPATION: Chairman, Madison County Board
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PARTY AFFILIATION: Democrat
PREVIOUS ELECTED POSITIONS: Madison County Board Chairman 2002-current; Madison County Board Member 1980 - 2002; Troy City Council 1978-1980; Jarvis Township Supervisor 1985 - current.
Why are you running for this office?
I have lived in Madison County my entire life. I attended public schools and graduated from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. I love Madison County and the men and women who make it the best county, certainly the best managed county, in Illinois. I am running for Madison County Board Chairman because I want to continue to work for the men and women of the county, to make sure they continue to receive the services they deserve and expect. I want to ensure that many of the projects initiated under my leadership, projects which will benefit our residents and our long-term economic development like the rehabilitation of the levees, are completed. I want to continue to lead the effort to level the playing field for the U.S. steel industry by working with and, occasionally, pressuring our elected officials in Washington. I want to see the proud men and women employed at Granite City Steel who are now laid-off, return to their jobs where they will again produce the world’s finest steel. I want to continue to fight for our residents by continuing to advocate for true property tax reform, especially adequate state funding for education to reduce the tax burden on our taxpayers. And I will lead by example, continuing to manage Madison County in a responsible, bipartisan manner that allows the county to reduce its portion of the property tax bill as we have been able to do for the past three years. Importantly, I want to continue to work to improve Madison County, to create new economic development and jobs for our residents, ensuring that when I leave office, Madison County, and its residents, will be in a stronger, better condition than when I took office.
What would be your top priority if elected or re-elected?If I am honored by the people of Madison County to be elected their chairman, I will have a number of “top” priorities. I will continue to work diligently to reduce the property tax burden on our residents. This will be accomplished by continuing to manage the county in an efficient, effective manner and the sound financial management of the taxpayers’ money, and by continuing to advocate for true property tax reform. Another top priority will be the completion of the rehabilitation of the levees to the 500-year level of protection. The rehabilitation of the levees which protect more than 155,000 residents and more than 4,000 businesses from the raging waters of the Mississippi River mean our residents will not have to pay exorbitant insurance premiums and that we are able to retain businesses and, importantly, jobs. I have and will continue to place a high priority on economic development in Madison County. Strong economic development means jobs for our residents and tax dollars for our schools and municipalities. During the recent recession, I initiated infrastructure improvements and the establishment of programs, including the establishment of Enterprise Zones, which would attract new development. That foresight, combined with the hard work of many people, led to Madison County’s becoming the premier logistical center in the Midwest, attracting many new businesses including Amazon and the Prairie Farms corporate headquarters. Certainly one of my top priorities will be to continue to work on the reopening of Granite City Steel and getting the men and women employed at the mill, and thousands of people who work for companies supporting the mill, back to work.
What is the biggest issue facing Madison County, and how do you feel it should be approached?There are a number of issues facing Madison County, including property taxes, dealing with the fallout from the mismanagement of the state of Illinois and others, but I believe there are two “big” issues we must address – job creation and financial support for our schools. Plain and simple, our residents need jobs. While the unemployment numbers for Madison County gradually decrease, as chairman I work every day to try to ensure that there is a job for every resident who wants to work. Job creation is not an issue that can be handled with one of two dramatic actions, it is an issue that I would address every day I am in office serving the people of our county. The other significant issue that must be addressed is adequate funding for our schools. Unfortunately, because the state continues to reduce its financial support for our schools, the burden is unfairly being put on the backs of taxpayers. A strong public school system is essential to the success of any area. Good schools keep property values high and are key to attracting new residents and businesses. The children of our county are truly our future. We have to work to ensure they receive the quality education that will prepare them to be contributing members of society, and that means our districts must be properly funded. I just don’t want an unfair portion of that burden to continue to fall to taxpayers.
Madison County is considering a 5-cent cut to its property tax rate. Are you in favor? Why or why not?
The 5-cent cut to the county general fund tax rate will negatively impact public safety and criminal justice programs in Madison County. The referendum targets the county’s general fund, which is only .23 of the county’s .70 overall tax rate. The general fund is the wrong place to cut taxes in county government. The right place to cut taxes is what the county board has already did, cut taxes in the non-general tax funds. Over the past three years, I have submitted a budget to the county board which will have cut its property tax collections by 5 percent for the county government portion of taxes, which is 8 percent of a home owners tax bill. Collectively the 5 percent cut in property taxes cut actually exceeds the amount of actual taxes that would be cut if the ballot referendum passes. The majority of the General Fund tax rate pays for public safety and criminal justice programs that protects our residents. The remainder of the county’s tax rate pays for non-essential services such as roads and bridges and pensions. When we have cut taxes the past few years, the cuts were made without negatively impacting the county’s public safety and criminal justice programs. It was done by finding ways to reduce operating costs and finding other sources of revenue, other than property taxes. We have done this without laying off sheriff deputies, correctional officers, or criminal prosecutors. The proposed general fund tax rate cut would save the owner of a $100,000 home just about $8 on their property tax bill next year. If a homeowner examines their current tax bill, they will see the amount of taxes they paid to Madison County, for the county’s share of the tax bill, is less than they have paid in previous years. I will continue to work with the Madison County Board in reducing property taxes, but will do so in a responsible way that will keeps the community safe and protects our residents.
What other improvements do you want to see in how the county is run, and how would you accomplish them?
Madison County is operated in an open and transparent manner. To ensure transparency, I have directed that all county financial transactions, including the ‘checkbook,’ the record of all spending, and competitive bidding to be put on the county’s website. As a result of those actions, the county has received an A+ rating for transparency from independent ethics watchdogs. We will continue to strive to find ways to promote open government and accountability to our taxpayers. We must continually take advantage of the improvements resulting from rapid changes in technology, changes which mean current tasks can be handled more efficiently, at lower costs and with fewer employees. By taking advantage of new technology and increased efficiencies, since I became chairman we have been able to reduce the county’s workforce by more than 325 people. Although we have made great strides in recent years, I have and will continue to stress improvements in how Madison County approaches economic development. Specifically, continually refining and improving our approach to attracting new development and the creation of new jobs for our residents. We are and will continue to aggressively approach new development rather than reacting to opportunities brought to our attention.
Why should the voters elect you?
During my tenure as chairman, I have provided solid leadership, effectively preparing the county to effectively meet the needs of our residents in the 21st Century. I have demonstrated financial responsibility, submitting a balanced budget every year I have served as chairman. Under my leadership, Madison County is debt free, and has an outstanding A+ credit rating, which saves taxpayers’ money, and is in the best financial condition of any county in Illinois. I am a financial conservative and make financially prudent decisions on behalf of the people of Madison County. My most important personal objective is to serve the people of Madison County and do what is right for the county. It has been an honor to have served the people of Madison County, an honor I hope to continue for four more years.
Madison County has faced a lot of partisan tension in the last few years. As chairman, how would you resolve this tension for a more cooperative county government?I am proud of the fact that as chairman, I have managed Madison County in a bipartisan manner, working closely and effectively with both Democrats and Republicans. Importantly, I have never taken into account a board members’ political affiliation when it came to a project or service that would positively impact the people in their respective districts. I believe that one of the reasons why Madison County is in such strong condition it is because the county is managed in a bipartisan manner and that unlike the officials in Springfield, we put politics aside when it comes to doing what is best for the county and its residents. At this critical time in the proud history of Madison County, it is important to elect a chairman who works for every citizen of our county. I believe it is the responsibility of elected officials to work for our citizens, not a political party. I have managed Madison County in a truly bipartisan manner and will work in a responsible, transparent and accountable manner on behalf of all county residents.