Candidate profile: Kenneth Sharkey

Name: Kenneth G. Sharkey

Office seeking: St. Clair County Board Member District 27

Party: Democrat

Age: 59 but feel 45

City of residence: Fairview Heights

Campaign website: None

Why are you running and why should people vote for you? I enjoy working for my community. I have a proven record of representing my constituents in many areas that are important to us. I vote for and support balanced budgets. I have never voted to raise County real estate tax rates. I have a strong record on preserving and expanding Scott Air Force Base. I chaired a task force, which resulted in the $3.5 Million clean up of the abandoned St. Ellen Mien, which now serves as a beautiful 200-acre park. I am currently working with Chairman Kern and animal advocate groups to have the Animal Services Center become a “No Kill” Shelter. I have been successful in widening the intersections on Frank Scott Parkway at Old Collinsville Road, Hartman Lane and Greenmount Road. New lanes are currently being added at to Frank Scott Parkway east of Highway 159 where 17,400 vehicles travel each day. I do not participate or condone in any form of negative campaigning.

St. Clair County’s health fund is $3.3 million in debt, according to its most recent audit. The debt has increased over the last two years. What measures would you support to reduce the debt? The county needs to work closely with its’ insurance Broker Hays to develop a plan of action to reduce the health fund liability. The county workforce is like most other workplaces in America, it has an aging workforce. Older workers are very valuable to organizations but they often raise the cost of health plans. St. Clair County offers a self-funded health plan, which gives the county great bargaining power over health care providers to reduce overall employee medical expenses. It is a good system but the health plan funding is susceptible to some very large individual claims over a period of time. My focus will be to protect taxpayers from incurring any additional cost to fund the county health plan.

What is your position on the oversight of MidAmerica Airport? Would you change anything? If so, what? Mid –America Airport has realized some significant achievements in recent years. Allegiant Airlines offers 35 flights to a variety of desired destinations. Well over 100,000 passengers annually use Allegiant to get to their destinations. Increased traffic from Mid-America Airport now ranks the airport #6 in statewide passengers. Mid-America Airport has surpassed Rockford and Springfield in number of passengers using their airports. The airport recently started charging for airport parking and those fees provide over $800,000 in projected new revenue from users of the airport. Airport land generates $500,000 annually in farm ground leasing. Boeing moved its first Illinois manufacturing operation at Mid-America Airport an added a second shift. North Bay Produce located its operation based in Michigan to the Airport location. AVMATS employs people in airport services and airplane refurbishment.

Attracting and growing Airport industry is a very competitive business. Mid-America Airport continues to grow. The County needs to pursue additional growth while maintaining expenses in a manageable approach.

St. Clair County board meetings last an average of 30 minutes, according to a review of meeting minutes from the last two years. Some committee meetings for the most part last less than 15 minutes. Is this enough time for county board members to conduct county business and earn a $19,419 salary? Why or why not? I attend my own committee meetings as well as other county, city and civic events in my community. I invest time in researching issues before voting on agenda items. I have chaired several committees where I encourage and seek citizen input. I am available to serve my constituents when they have requests for information or need service. In my effort to reduce costs to taxpayers, I do not accept or participate in the county retirement plan. This decision has saved tens of thousands of dollars in government expense to the taxpayers.

County revenue has been declining in recent years. How should revenues be increased or do services have to be cut? Why? A large part of St. Clair County’s declining income is due to the State of Illinois to financial condition. The state owes St. Clair County Probation and Court Services over $5.4 million dollars. The state recently imposed a 2% administration fee on all tax revenue due to us. This new state fee will cost the county hundreds of thousands of dollars. The state has reduced $400,000 of funds due to the county from Personal property replacement tax. The state has legislated unfunded mandates that cost local governments. A recent example of a costly state unfunded mandate is to require the county to operate early voting sites. Convenience for voters is worthy initiative. Early voting sites cost money that the state did not provide while mandating the county to incur the expense. The state did pass an income tax increase to further address its financial plight. I cannot support a real estate rate increase at the county level. The county must continue its efforts to control expenses and continue to evaluate user fees to negate any possible increase in real estate taxes.