For the past 21 years, I have served Lisle Township residents through elected positions including the past 6 years as the Lisle Township Highway Commissioner. I have served as a Lisle Township Trustee and a Village of Lisle Trustee. My professional background is in finance and accounting, I am a CPA and have an MBA. I am exceptionally qualified from the combination of my experience in elected government positions in Lisle coupled with my professional audit and financial background. Most recently as Lisle Township Highway Commissioner, I partnered with DuPage County on several storm water projects, worked with developers to extend utility services through the township benefiting future residents, and worked with homeowners’ groups to prevent commercial development in residential neighborhoods.
As Highway Commissioner I lowered the property tax levy to be collected this year (2021) to the lowest Road District levy in the past eight years. For the past three years I have offered homeowners a sidewalk replacement program with the Road District paying for 75% of the cost.
The two most important issues facing the Road District are: 1) continuing to provide superior service at the lowest cost possible and 2) addressing unfunded mandates from the federal and state governments.
The 2020 tax levy (collected in 2021) is $2.9 million to maintain 50 miles of township roads equating to $58 K / mile. This rate is over 33% cheaper than surrounding communities and does not consider the additional services the District provides. As Highway Commissioner, I led the road district to provide branch pickup 6 times / year, sidewalk replacement shared cost program (residents pay 25%), and extended leaf pick-up into December.
Our challenge going forward is to find additional ways to reduce expenses. I will accomplish this through additional collaborations with other governmental and private agencies and continuing to upgrade our technology and tools.
The Road District is subject to requirements declared by Illinois and the Federal Government for which no funding is granted. Whether it be additional environmental restrictions, reporting, or training requirements, all the unfunded mandates consume Road District resources. I will continue to work with our Federal, State & County representatives to focus their attention on how many of these mandates do not further their intended purpose when it comes to Road District activities. I am committed to leading an efficient team and preserving scarce Road District resources.
The key to additional cost reductions is collaborating with both private and public entities to take advantage of each other’s strengths. Under my leadership, the Road District has joined with DuPage County for scaled purchasing agreements for materials and supplies. In addition, I have partnered with other road districts for sharing equipment and personnel, in certain situations. I recently partnered with DuPage County for hosting and setup of the Road District’s GIS system which significantly reduced the startup expense. To further drive cost reductions, I would continue to build shared programs including a county wide vehicle inspection program which would result in significant savings of staff time and reduce the related out of pocket cost.
I am going to put the Road District checkbook on-line to further drive transparency, and I would encourage and support Lisle Township to do the same. 70% of the Road District’s Budget is related to personnel cost (42%) or items subject to bidding requirements (28%). During the annual budget workshop, I provide a detailed workup of all the components of personnel costs including wage rates, fringe benefit costs, and various allowances. I ensure the capital replacement plan is formulated and thoroughly discussed at each board meeting and prior to any purchases. Each year we evaluate all of our service providers to ensure we our getting value for the taxpayers’ dollars.
I graduated cum laude from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and earned my Professional Engineers License in 1994. I worked at Engineering consulting companies as a Chemical Process Engineer for approximately 15 years at Chicago area firms in a variety of industries. I worked an additional 10 years at Original Equipment Manufacturing Companies as a Project Manager focusing on scope, schedule, and budgets for projects varying in size from $100,000 to $15,000,000 with durations from a few weeks to two years. As a project manager I was responsible for multiple labor and material supply contracts, product delivery, installation, commissioning, and documentation. Routine projects I ran came in 2-3 weeks ahead of schedule and approximately 5%-10% under budget. Projects with novel engineering solutions I ran were typically +/-5% of budget and on time regarding schedule.
My Engineering and Project Management skills are highly matched for ongoing maintenance and new construction projects as would be required with the Highway Commissioners Office. In addition, supervising multiple contractors in manufacturing, fabrication, and operations makes me highly qualified to identify potential cost savings. I have a long range view using labor costs, capital costs, and operating costs to optimize the performance and return on tax payer dollars.
The Highway Commissioners offices faces the following significant issues:
1. Communication with tax payers via website, newsletters, or local smart phone application
2. Transparency with budget and services provided
Taxpayers are currently supporting two Lisle Township Highway Commissioner websites. The first is located within the Lisle Township website. The primary piece of information available on this website is a scanned version of the mailed out newsletter. Other benefits include construction permit applications where unincorporated construction may impact the road. The second website is supported by the Township of Illinois Highway Commissioners and has not been updated in at least six years. It shows the previous Highway Commissioner as still serving and does not direct web visitors to another site and includes only blank pages.
Information should be on a single website and much more interactive. Residents will be able to submit questions, concerns, public comments, photographs showing concerns, etc from either a computer or a smart phone. Many of our residents may not be fluent with the latest technology; however, most residents with a smart phone are capable of sharing photos and typing a short message. If the tax payers are supporting two different websites, then one of these needs to be eliminated. I expect the website to include as a minimum key dates for road improvements, brush cutting and brush removal, to show the unincorporated roads for with the Highway Commissioner is responsible, and the appropriate authority / government contact for roads which are not under the Highway Commissioner's responsibility.
Transparency in spending is a significant concern. The budget currently shows items such as physical assets and spending as broken out by supplier. The budget needs to define the basis of operation including the straight line highway miles for upkeep and the purpose behind each expenditure.
The areas for improvement include performing work required, focusing on energy efficient equipment, buildings and devices, and addressing the unincorporated road needs through feedback from residents who use the unincorporated roads.
Most road improvements are performed on a time schedule regardless of the condition of the roads or equipment. For example, in a recent township meeting, the Highway Commissioner discussed replacing an underground fuel storage tank due to age. No mention was indicated for performing an inspection of the tank. The tank may be at the end of its useful life or it may have an additional 10-15 years remaining. Inspecting roads and equipment is fundamental in not spending taxpayer money where not required.
In addition, the Highway Commissioner recently sold some older equipment and ordered brand new equipment requiring more than two years lead time. If the equipment is required, then the sale and purchase must be made. However, a brief study to justify the sale and expense is required.
In addition, energy efficiency has made great advances over the past 10-20 years. High efficiency lighting, low water use plumbing and fixtures and best thermal insulation design must be assessed and implemented where needed to reduce the ongoing expenses associated with the Highway Commissioner’s office.
The Highway Commissioners Office must use digital communication to interact with residents for both services provided and expenses incurred. Feedback from residents allows for responsiveness to residents needs in a timely or even proactive manner.
An annual budget is available on line. However, the typical resident is neither a CPA nor a Degreed Accountant. The budget should not appear to be a data dump from a overly generalized report request. An easy to understand budget including straight lane miles under jurisdiction and an easy to interpret accounting of expenses needs to be made public. While annual budgets are required, the goal is not to have large amounts of money in reserve giving the Highway Commissioner discretion as to whether the reserve is returned to the tax payers or spent on future projects not yet allowed for in the budget.
An overall comparison with other DuPage Township Highway Commissioner’s offices need to show the basis for equipment, staffing, and operating expenses. For example, if Lisle Township has 5 employees / straight line mile whereas an adjoining township has 10 employees / straight line mile, then the two Highway Commissioners need to discuss the specifics regarding the discrepancy. Additional comparisons can be advocated for pieces of equipment, size of buildings, age of equipment, etc.
The thing most tax payers are conscious of is the tax levee shown on the property tax bill. Few tax payers are aware of the basis for the levee. This must change.