Tim Bagby, DeKalb County Board 2022 Primary Election Questionnaire

Election 2024
Shaw Local April 2022 file photo - DeKalb County Board District 3 candidate Tim Bagby is running for reelection in the Nov. 8, 2022 general election.

Full Name: Tim Bagby

What office are you seeking? DeKalb County Board Member, District 3

What offices, if any, have you previously held? DeKalb County Board Member, 1988-1992, 2015-date

City: Sycamore

Occupation: Business Services

Education: AA, Political Science, IVCC, BA, MA Political Science, NIU

Campaign Website: None

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?

I expect and hope that the county nursing home would continue to be used as along-term care facility whether it continues to be owned by the county or whether the facility becomes privately owned.

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

The fiscal situation at the nursing home stems in part from high-cost registry nursing and the low census. In order for the nursing home to become self-sustaining, both of these issues will need to be addressed. Neither of these can be exclusively solved by County Board action. The shortage of skilled nursing, particularly CNA staff, is industry-wide and places a severe strain on public and private facilities. The low census is in part a result of Covid-19 for both rehabilitation placements and long-term care placements. It will take some time before that situation is resolved. In the mean time, the losses will continue to affect the availability of funds for other County programs and services.

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

1- Finding a solution to the funding situation at the DCNRC.

2 - Moving from self-insurance program to obtaining a general liability insurance program for the County.

3 - Continuing to find ways of providing quality County services without adding to the burden shouldered by the taxpayers.

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

1 - There are no easy answers for clearing up the funding situation with the DCNRC. One portion of the solution may be to find a way to “right-size” the nursing home. The current operational model calls for a 175 census to break even. Perhaps an additional community use may be found to utilize a portion of the building to generate revenue for a time. The staffing situation and the census will need to be resolved if the nursing home is to continue as a self sustaining enterprise. Neither the present tax cap law, nor the capacity of an already overtaxed public provides room for a sizable county contribution without some additional source of revenue. Beyond that, a sale of the enterprise to a private or non-profit entity could be considered.

2 - The County has been able to avoid high-cost general liability insurance by creating a self-insurance pool of county funds to provide for the needs of resolving litigation involving the County. We have been fortunate over the years with a very small number of claims against the county. While this has saved a significant amount of money, recent claims against the county, as well as significant claims made against other Midwestern municipalities, suggest that we may be turning the corner to a period of greater risk. To manage that risk, the County must provide a cost-effective means of shouldering that burden without overburdening the tax paying public. Moving away from self-insurance will involve expense up front, but the need to reduce overall liability must be weighed against this additional cost.

3 - DeKalb County Government provides a range of services to the citizens of DeKalb County. Each year, the State and Federal governments come up with additional requirements for us to follow, but often don’t pay for their ideas. Take police body cameras as an example. There is a big push to require cameras, but little money for the implementation. If there were money to get something started, there would be no program in place for repair/replacement of equipment. More and more is asked of local government, but the burden of paying is left to the local government ( i.e. the local government taxpayers). What is needed is a mechanism to evaluate old mandates and devise a way of compensating local governments for their fulfillment or finding a way of rolling these requirements off at a certain interval.

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 am approaching my eleventh year of combined service to the citizens of DeKalb County. During that time some issues have proven intractable like unfunded State and Federal mandates on local government. Other issues have proven capable of bi-partisan solutions like the agreement to have selected staff perform the re-districting process for the County Board. I have tried to remain open to the ideas of others, whether those ideas come from County staff, other members of the board, or from interested members of the public. Public service is a group enterprise and I have tried to process issues not from what I think about a particular issue, but from what others can inform me of about the issues which confront us.

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?

The County’s role in the supporting wind and solar energy, as it is with any development, is to provide opportunity for developers and protection for homeowners and other property owners. This may sound like stepping on brake and accelerator at the same time. It is. Among our responsibilities is to weigh whether a particular type of development “dominates the neighborhood” where a proposed development is located. Adequate setbacks, proper drainage, and appropriate screening are all necessary. Those who will live next to a development deserve to have their concerns addressed. Where a solar project is a “good fit”, I have supported it. Where it does not, I have opposed it.

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?

This past year the County has been able to hold the line on property taxes. The extent of growth has been limited to the value of new construction activity. To get to this point, the County has had to say no to requests for additional staff and will need to do so in future. There may be some savings available by stretching out the repair and replacement budget and evaluating the replacement cycles for certain types of capital items. In addition, the county has provided a stipend for those employees who choose not to use the County health insurance. The per employee savings for this program far exceed the value of the stipends offered. Further examination of fringe benefit trade-offs could provide additional areas of savings for the County.

Inflation across the nation has greatly impacted the price of gasoline, food and supplies. Recent rent hikes also are affecting local communities, forcing relocation for those reliant on subsidized housing in DeKalb County, according to a recent Daily Chronicle report and the DeKalb County Housing Authority, which is a branch of county government. What can the DeKalb County Board do to address relief of everyday expenses, and reduce the tax burden on local residents?

The County has provided some tax relief this year in the form of not increasing the levy to the maximum allowed by the tax cap law. This year, the only increase is from new construction so the average taxpayer should see a slight decrease in their level of taxation. In addition, the County has provided grants to the County’s municipal governments for their use on infrastructure projects with some of the ARPA funds that came from the Federal government (i.e. you and me.) Some of these funds have been made available for projects relating to lead pipe replacement projects which will save affected homeowners. In addition, the County has administered the Senior Services Levy which provides funds for a variety of health and other projects to benefit the elderly in the community including support for the DeKalb County Community Gardens which provides a variety of food-related programs to benefit DeKalb County Citizens.

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?

DeKalb County has a well-established Enterprise Zone which provides a measure of tax relief for new and expanding businesses within the community. In addition, the County has been supportive of tax abatement proposals (Facebook, Ferrara, Syngenta, etc.) with a positive impact in the community. Continued support of the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation (DCEDC) is crucial to showcasing the community and putting our best front forward for prospective development in the community. As with any proposal, a significant commitment to decent wage rates is an important part of the formula.

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 was tasked with enforcing and promulgating mandates created by the State of Illinois. As an educational resource, the Health Department provided information about infections rates, hygienic practices and the availability of testing and vaccines to the community. In addition, the department was tasked with assisting the State with various “shut down” orders. In educating the public about a matter of public health, the department provided timely, accurate information about the status of where we were as a community during the pandemic. As an enforcement entity, the State placed our local health department in a number of no-win situations. Our local department was only able to provide direction for local businesses and restaurants to the extent that clear guidance was provided by the State of Illinois. At the same time, our local Health Department was placed in a region where one county’s bad numbers resulted in a number of counties needing to abide by more aggressive mitigation efforts than their individual numbers would warrant. In future, greater flexibility must be given for local health departments to deal with the public health situation on the ground in their own community.

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

Keeping a favorable tax climate is one area where the County can contribute to a more favorable economic and growth climate. We are in competition with surrounding communities and surrounding states.

In addition, having a solid transportation plan in place as the County does is an important infrastructure piece for almost all businesses. Currently there is an effort to bring County roads up to an 80,000 lb standard. This will be attractive for large and small companies alike which depend on safe transport.

Public safety and dedicated law enforcement personnel are also important drivers. People want to live and work in surroundings they feel are safe. The importance of this valuable community asset cannot be overstated.

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

There are pockets within the community where crime is a greater problem, but almost any serious crime has touched all parts of the County at some time or other. We have an experienced, dedicated, and responsible law enforcement community in our Sheriff’s department. We have officers who are dedicated to the community and know their jobs well. We need to make sure that the equipment, personnel, and facilities remain top notch. Enhanced enforcement in cooperation with municipal authorities should be a priority in those areas which have a high concentration of activity. At the same time, further efforts to provide activities to involve youth with each other, and with the law enforcement community especially need to be undertaken.

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

The County Engineer has an ongoing five-year program for upgrading and replacing county road and bridge projects. I am supportive of this plan. These projects are distributed throughout the county based upon current condition and life cycle. In addition, there is a long range study to evaluate each of the major segments along Peace Road to evaluate any additional safety enhancements which may need to be done. Plank Road is being evaluated to see if there is a need to make improvements up to and including a major realignment.

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

This year the average taxpayer should see a slight decrease in the County portion of their tax bill. We have been able to do so due to larger than expected amount of new construction, larger than expected sales tax revenue, and a sizable increase in replacement tax. Some entities would spend the windfall, but this County Board chose through this years budget to decrease the burden on the taxpayer.

When the housing market turned south in 2008, the county made a number of cutbacks and developed a contingency plan should that downturn have continued. If there is a future shortfall, everything will be on the table just as it was the last time we were in a crunch.

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

The State of Illinois controls what ethics laws govern County government. While we have an annual audit to examine our fiscal control practices, it is not an exhaustive enterprise. County Board members and elected County officials fill out an annual statement of economic interest. Personal assets are not required to be disclosed, but potential conflicts are required to be disclosed, including conflicts involving immediate family members.

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

We should follow it.

Please state your plan to maintain government transparency.

I support information being made available to the public unless there is some business related reason for maintaining secrecy. They are a small number of reasons to go into closed session, and that list is limited by law. My attitude is that if someone has a right to information, it is best to let them have it right away rather than make them jump through hoops to get it.

What would you push for as a member of county government to boost local businesses?

One thing I would like to see is the County do a little “boosterism” for some of our local restaurants. The pandemic was devastating to these local businesses. Perhaps the county could host a “restaurant of the month” and provide online coupons to encourage a little more foot traffic.

Should government employees and officials be allowed to sign non- disclosure agreements with private businesses?

That would depend on the nature of the service provided and the business necessity (on the County’s part) of keeping the information undisclosed. Any such agreement should be run by the State’s Attorney and the County Administrator.

No one should be able on their own to sign such an agreement.

Would you push for or against government officials and employees being allowed to sign non-disclosure agreements with private businesses?

I refer you to the previous answer.