Editorials

Challenger in one county, challenges in the other

St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern in 2012 when Allegiant Air announced its return to passenger service at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport.
St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern in 2012 when Allegiant Air announced its return to passenger service at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport. dholtmann@bnd.com

Madison County Treasurer Kurt Prenzler must have decided that a strong offense is the best defense: He’s seeking the job of his No. 1 critic, County Chairman Alan Dunstan, in 2016.

Meanwhile, back in St. Clair County, Board Chairman Mark Kern is running for a fourth term with no opposition on the horizon.

Prenzler said he is running to create a County Board that participates instead of one that nods heads through threats and intimidation. He also wants the budget to reflect reality instead of being padded to make the numbers look better.

Kern may not face a challenge, but he should. He points to MidAmerica Airport developments to illustrate his ability to create jobs, but a challenger would point to the $7.5 million the county injected this year to keep the airport financially afloat. What is that cost for each of the 225 jobs out there: $33,333 each?

Kern is right about fewer dollars being collected for the county from property taxes: they dropped from $33.4 million in 2010 to $30.7 million last year. A challenger would ask about the ongoing deficit budgets and refinancing $40 million in airport debt so it will cost taxpayers $88 million over 30 years.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency quest may be the watershed moment. If the 3,100 jobs come to St. Clair County, Kern is a hero; If we lose the bid to North St. Louis, he’s a heel for failing to get the needed expertise and political muscle.

Anyone out there up for a challenge?

Correction: Earlier versions of this editorial incorrectly stated Prenzler’s intentions regarding county budgeting. Prenzler said he is seeking a 10 percent reduction in Madison County’s property tax levy to prevent budget padding.

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