2012 election candidate questionnaire: Jeff Kibler, Champaign County Board District 5
Home: unincorporated Champaign.
Occupation: Software and site manager for Infobright Inc.
Political experience: Former president of Champaign County Young Republicans; appointed to county board earlier this year.
1. What do you believe is the biggest problem in Champaign County government now, and what can you, as a single county board member, do about it?
Like most governmental entities, Champaign County faces significant debt alongside mounting financial pressures. For example, Champaign County holds nearly $50 million in debt. Meanwhile, the county jail needs significant attention, and the nursing home faces increased accounts receivable issues starting in 2013. Over the next few years, the county must focus on budgetary issues as well as debt repayment. As a single county board member, I will bring a fresh, independent view to the county's budget. I will identify ways to tighten our budgetary belts and will work with Republicans and Democrats to build consensus on needed adjustments.
2. What county services currently offered should be eliminated or reduced?
As each county service requires deep investigation prior to elimination, I cannot declare that any county service should be eliminated at this time. As we review each service and its budget, I believe improvements will be identified to help bolster our bottom line. Plus, the board must ask each department head to continue to be cost conscious.
Ultimately, government should be involved in activities in which the private sector cannot be involved. From infrastructure to election services, county government plays an important role in our community. For the benefit of individuals within the county, county government has a duty to ensure the best and proper usage of taxpayer money. As the board identifies programs no longer adhering to the county mission, the board should reduce or eliminate that program.
3. What services should the county provide that it does not offer now?
As a strong proponent of transparency in government, I encourage the county board to identify no cost or very low cost options for improving transparency in government. For example, the board recently approved an alteration of the Champaign County Board room. This alteration includes significant transparency improvements including online video streaming of county board meetings. As Comcast delivers county board meetings live, non-Comcast customers will soon be able to use this online stream to watch online their county government work for them.
As an evangelist for technology, I believe the county should invest in online portals to streamline interaction with county government. At this time, many services can be initiated online including marriage certificates and other services. To not only improve customer satisfaction but also reduce overall cost, Champaign County and its departments must review their customer-facing processes. After each review, departments should begin placing part or all of those processes online. By doing so, we offer better service at reduced cost.
4. Are there circumstances under which you would vote for another increase in property taxes to support the operation of the Champaign County Nursing Home?
The Champaign County Nursing Home and the county have several options to stave off a tax increase; thus, I will not support raising taxes on Champaign County as a result of our nursing home. As the nursing home nearly operates as a stand-alone business, CCNH must identify revenue streams to diminish the need to pull from the county's general corporate fund. For example, CCNH and the nursing home board must identify ways to increase high value Medicare days via supplemental services including recent proposals such as respiratory care or renal dialysis. In addition, CCNH already acknowledges that it must begin to retain as much cash as possible to help avoid a cash crunch in 2013 due to potential accounts receivable issues. Finally, the Champaign County Board must do a better job at conserving money for upcoming projects and issues; CCNH is one of those potential issues for which we must conserve money. Because CCNH and the county have several options prior to raising income taxes, I will not support an increase in taxes.
5. Are there circumstances under which you would vote to sell or close the Champaign County Nursing Home?
As of September 2012, CCNH houses nearly 200 residents from a mixture of private pay, Medicare and Medicaid. Because of the strong need, I feel the nursing home should not and would not be closed as it provides a needed service. For the benefit of all parties involved, including residents, staff and the community, the county board should not consider closure of the facility. Most residents within CCNH are under Medicaid. Thus, the board must consider the patient outcomes in the event of any potential sale of the nursing home. In the event that CCNH fails to fulfill the mission of the county or that a private enterprise agrees to house the high levels of Medicaid beds in the home, I believe the county should review and consider that offer for the sale of the nursing home.
6. Do you believe the downtown jail should be closed as soon as possible? If so, do you think an addition would be needed to the satellite (east Urbana) jail?
The county currently holds nearly $50 million of debt lasting through 2027. The county can ill afford additional debt, so the county board must be judicious in any request to incur more debt. I believe the downtown jail will need increased attention and improvements. I do not believe the county should close the downtown jail as these improvements may rectify current concerns. In addition, the county needs to fully understand the need to expand the satellite jail. At this time, I do not believe the need exists nor can the county afford an expansion. More thorough review by the county board will be necessary as time progresses.
7. What can the county board do to enhance economic development?
The county can play several different roles to help spur economic development.
— Continue investment of the Convention and Visitors Bureau
— Continue to lay the groundwork for transportation in the community. For example, as the University of Illinois releases control of the airport, the county must play a vital role in its future. Many local businesses rely on the airport, and its success correlates with the opportunities of expansion of many of our local companies.
— Continue review of the potential high speed rail expansion. While much work must be done for high speed rail to be a success, the board will be a necessary voice for its construction in the county.
— Finally, as farmers and landowners look toward wind farms as a source of income, the county must facilitate adoption and ensure compliance of the county's resolutions.
8. Does Champaign County need a building code?
I do not feel that Champaign County needs a building code at this time. While one particular issue recently arose, I strongly feel that government should not create rules based upon knee-jerk reactions. Many of the recent issues already fall under other code enforcement laws, so additional countywide codes will have little impact. In addition, we lack many resources to enforce any new codes, so without increased funding for enforcement, there may be little that new codes could achieve. Therefore, I do not believe we need additional county-specific codes at this time.
9. Should the county or the county board do anything about a coal mine proposed for the Homer area?
At this time, the county board should continue to monitor and listen to the advancement of a potential coal mine in eastern Champaign County. At current projections provided to the board, the Bulldog Coal Mine is still 15 to 20 years away from entering Champaign County.
10. Are there county offices that you believe can be eliminated or consolidated?
While efficiencies can be achieved by the consolidation of offices, at this time, I do not believe any office should be eliminated or consolidated. While some county office holders are currently under scrutiny by the public, I believe the positions are valuable for our county. In the event circumstances change, I will be open to options regarding the consolidation or elimination of county offices.