Laurie Emmer, DeKalb County Board 2022 Primary Election Questionnaire

Election 2024
DeKalb County Board candidate Laurie Emmer

Full Name: Laurie Emmer

What office are you seeking? County Board Member District 4

What offices, if any, have you previously held? County Board Member District 4 2016 to present

City: Sycamore

Occupation: Retired U.S. Army

Education: BA Business Administration, BA History, BA Political Science

The DeKalb County Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, a public facility owned by DeKalb County government, is under financial distress, according to county officials. Budget constraints brought to light in 2021 made it difficult for the center to maintain its financial independence. The county board last year dissolved the center’s operating board, and hired a consultant to help determine the future of the facility: Whether to sell it (current county leadership says that is not the preference), or how to maintain its financial autonomy. If elected, what would you want to see become of the county nursing home?

It would be preferable to keep a financially viable county nursing home for years to come. However, keeping the county nursing home afloat has required the county to loan the county nursing home money. As of this date, the loan is over seven million dollars. At one time the census was 175, but now is below 130. Financial autonomy would mean no longer requiring loans from the county, most likely budgeting for a lower census moving forward and ensuring billing is conducted in a timely manner. The continuation of the county loaning funds to the county nursing home without an end date is very problematic. We may be hurting other county departments down the road. Do we hurt others to save one? Selling the county nursing home needs to be a last resort, but an option we must consider.

How would you address financial constraints at the nursing home as a county board member?

I have been asked about the financial constraints on the phone and in public places. I answer with the information we have been given at the County Board Committee of the Whole meetings.

What are the three biggest challenges facing the DeKalb County Board?

1. The financials issues with the County Nursing Home.

2. The impact on the other County Departments because of the loans made to the County Nursing Home.

3. Solar Farms

Please provide specific ideas for how you would address these issues if elected, or solutions you would offer?

The large amount of loans being made to the county nursing home are concerning. If the nursing home is not sold, these loans could continue to drain unrestricted funds which affect other county departments. the other concern I have is the effect on the next budget. The only replacement is revenue. I do not want to see taxes raised and I have spoken to constituents who definitely do not want to see their taxes raised.

I have not had an issue with solar gardens, but I am looking at solar farms with caution. I would like to see how this goes with a limit for a couple of years. With all of the arguments, I have not heard anyone talking about the impact on wildlife.

What makes you specifically qualified to run for DeKalb County Board? What would you bring to the table, and how would it benefit the board? Please provide specific examples.

I bring the experience of being a DeKalb County Board member since 2016. I am currently the Chair of the Economic and Development Committee and serve on the Highway Committee. I previously served on the Health and Human Services Committee.

I bring the veteran perspective. I served in the US Army for nearly 24 years. in 2020-2021 I was a State level leader for a Veterans Organization with nearly 40,000 members in Illinois and about 15 paid employees. In the military, I was assigned to a hospital working in patient care and on the administration side. This experience has been valuable of late with understanding the financial issues of the county nursing home. I appreciate the hard work and dedication of the nursing staff at the county nursing home, but on the administration side I am looking at the numbers and looking at the billing issues. I also see the census decline realizing how problematic it is because I know that there is a cost for each inpatient. I had experience with budgets.

In 2021, the DeKalb County Board took up votes for several solar energy farms of significant size. The projects, which were approved amid some lengthy debate, spawned a significant amount of community feedback, some negative, some positive, some related to county board regulations for future farms. Where do you stand on the topic of solar energy, and what role do you believe the county board should play in that?

I do not have an issue with solar energy, although I look at solar farms with caution. The county board plays an important role particularly in regard to the ordinance. The county boards needs to continue evaluating each request and listening to all feedback.

The DeKalb County Board’s budget was passed for Fiscal Year 2022 at $96 million. Would you advocate to change it or make cuts? If so, where? Why or why not?

That budget was already passed so I wouldn’t change anything at this point.

Looking forward when the new budget is given to us, I evaluate it.

According to the 2020 U.S. Census, DeKalb County’s population dropped by about 4,000 people over the past decade, mostly concentrated in the DeKalb area. Population sizes can directly impact revenue streams for municipal budgets such as local sales tax and motor fuel use, and economic development. How would you rank economic development as a priority within your campaign, and what, if elected, would you do to ensure DeKalb County progresses into the next decade?

I place economic development a high priority. Bringing in more industry increases revenue. The DCEDC has been rock stars in DeKalb County encouraging new economic opportunities and most impressive is their branding initiative Opportunity Unbound. DeKalb County and the municipalities could be marketed as the place to be to work, live and play. DeKalb County has a Business Incubator for those wanting to start up their own businesses. More information about this is on the DeKalb County website. Economic growth is job opportunities.

Assess the DeKalb County Health Department’s actions to combat COVID-19? What changes, if any, need to be made related to the pandemic?

The DeKalb County Health Department did a great job with testing, immunizations and information to the public.

How would you encourage economic and employment growth within DeKalb County?

The DCEDC branding initiative Opportunity Unbound will be extremely helpful marketing DeKalb County as a place to work, live and play. We can get the word out to corporations know that DeKalb County is a great place. DCEDC are fantastic and instrumental in bringing new corporations into DeKalb County. We are prime for growth and with this growth is opportunities for more jobs.

Do you think there is a local crime problem? If so, what needs to be done about it?

I have not seen written statistics, only what I have seen in the media. However, there could be a perception of a crime problem. On the county side, we need to ensure the County Sheriff’s Department budget allows them to function with personnel and equipment.

What local road and bridge projects should be a priority to get done in the county?

The Highway Department has a five year plan which addresses road and bridge projects. Annually, the County Board receives a annual report from Nathan Schwartz on the status of road and bridge projects in the county and annually a tour is given to sites around the county to show the road and bridge projects.

Do you support decreasing local property taxes? If so, how would the county make up the difference?

Yes, I am in favor of decreasing local property taxes. This is a subject many constituents have spoken with me on. There are two ways the county would make up the difference; finding other sources of revenue and budget cuts. Budget cuts sound easier said than done because what cuts and where? What jobs are affected? On the other hand, looking at more sources of revenue is much better.

Do you support stronger county government ethics laws? What measures do you support?

I am always in favor of strong ethics laws. We answer to the citizens.

What are your thoughts on the Illinois Freedom of Information Act?

I am in favor of it. The people have a right to information. The only exceptions I may see would be certain crimes which involve children or sexual assault.

Please state your plan to maintain government transparency.

I am in favor of government transparency. DeKalb County does a great job. For example, if one wants to know what happens at a DeKalb County Board Committee meeting it is easy to find the current and archived minutes on the county website.