Candidate Profile: Don Wallace

Don Wallace
Don Wallace

Name: Don Wallace

Age: 70

Immediate Family members: Linda Wallace, wife, Jayne Gratz, step-daughter, Gina Hall, step-daughter, and Chris Wallace, son.

Town: Unincorporated St. Clair County, near Belleville

Office seeking: St. Clair Township Trustee

Occupation: Retired educator and small business owner

Previous and current elected offices and terms served: Vice President - Madison Community Unit School District 12 teachers union, for 6 years

Why are you running? I am concerned about the fiscal management of the Township as well as the negative discord. I feel it is important that tax payers are satisfied at how they are being served and how their tax dollars are being spent. As trustee, I will make sure that all the residents have a voice and that the budgets proposed by both the Supervisor and Road Commissioner reflect their concerns and are fiscally appropriate.

What is your view on township government and its role? St. Clair Township government provides sewer and road service, general assistance to residents, and parks for use by residents as well as the community at large. The Township Supervisor and Road Commissioner both manage taxpayer dollars through the budgetary process. The Supervisor is responsible for maintaining township sewers and parks while the Road Commissioner takes care of Township roads. They each must handle upgrades, normal maintenance, and identify and plan new projects all within the tax dollars available. The Board of Trustees are, in a sense, the guardians of the tax payers money and must keep both the Supervisor and Road Commissioner accountable for their use of taxes through the budget and audit process.

If you were writing a job description for the position you’re seeking, what would it say? A Trustee is a member of a four person board that reviews, approves, and monitors the budgets submitted by the Supervisor and Road Commissioner. The Board also audits invoices at their monthly meetings. As a member of a governing body, the trustee must understand budgets, grants and the limitations of using tax payer dollars. Because the Board has little impact on the budgets once they are approved, a trustee must make informed budget decisions before voting to approve a budget.

What is the most important issue facing St. Clair Township? How would you approach it? The management of township funds so that the services provided to the residents meet their needs while maintaining and upgrading the roads, parks, and sewers. Because the role of a trustee is to primarily approve budgets and audit invoices, it is vital, as a trustee, that you take the time to do a comprehensive review of both budget requests and invoices. I will work hard to ensure that budget requests are fiscally sound; bidding on projects is not only legal but also gets the most for the tax dollars allocated; and make sure that all the township is represented in the work being done. Another significant issue will be the upcoming sewer transfer contract with Belleville. Because of current law, the Township has few options. As a trustee, I will keep the residents updated on how the talks are going and work with the Supervisor to get the best contract for residents that will be impacted.

St. Clair Township has had its share of controversy lately including sewer rates and the number of employees in the highway department. What are your views on these issues? First, I believe that the highway department budget approved by the Board (with 3.5 employees) was adequate to get the work done. From what I have seen, there is no evidence provided that services are lacking with the current staff level. It appears that the budget was adjusted by the board to provide dollars to meet emergency and project needs through the contracting process. I believe that once a budget has been passed you work within it. As far as sewer rates, I have found that State Law allows a municipality, in this case Swansea, to set sewer rates township residents living in the municipality at any level they choose and the Township no impact on the rates unless the municipality wants to work with them. I have talked with those from the Township who were involved with the Swansea situation and think they got as good deal as Swansea was willing to give. What needs to be done is to work with the State Legislature to change the law. I might also add that the base rate for residents being billed by the Township has been reduced. I think there is a lot of misunderstanding and confusion of how the sewer rate in Swansea was determined. The Board must do a better job of communicating with residents on complicated issues like this.

Why should people vote for you? People should vote for me because I am a fiscally minded person who has worked with budgets that were dependent on government funding. I understand how these budgets work and the limits that are often placed on these funds. As the person responsible for large budgets, I worked with invoices and audits. During those years, I always ended the budget year on budget or with a budget surplus. Because the role of a trustee is almost exclusively dealing with budgets, I feel my experiences with large grants (both state and federal) provide me experiences and insights that vital as a trustee. It is important to note that the position of trustee changes once budgets are approved. The role moves from budget to auditing invoices. I will work to ensure that the tax dollars are spent wisely and reduce them, through tax reductions, when fiscally possible. I believe that the people must have a voice and they must be given honest, accurate updates and information. I am a communicator by nature and believe that we should keep residents updated about what is going on. Any time you are dealing with tax payers money, it is very important to be as transparent as possible. That is how I have always conducted myself when dealing with public money. Before spending township tax payer money I will ask four simple questions. What is the request? Why is the request being made? What is going to be the cost to our tax payers? and Where are funds coming from? A vote for me is a vote for fiscal accountability and efficiency.