Candidate Profile Interview with the Daily Herald: Mary Fitzgerald Ozog for DuPage County Board – District 4
Why are you running for this office, whether for re-election or election for the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you? If so, what?
I am running for the DuPage County Board because I have always believed that government should help people. During my college internship on Capitol Hill, work as a Transportation Planner at Metra and CTA, six years on the Glen Ellyn Architectural Review Commission, six years on the Glen Ellyn Zoning Board, and, currently, my seven years on the Glenbard Township High School District 87 School Board, I have worked, through government, to make life better for the communities I’ve served. If elected I will use my experience and my voice to help make DuPage a better place to live, work, and raise a family. Speaking of voices, I’m running as a Democrat because right now there is only one Democrat on the County Board. The County Board has a budget of $439 Million and it’s important to have new voices to examine how taxpayer funds are managed by the County. I am very interested in initiatives the County provides for countering the opioid crisis which is impacting families of every demographic in DuPage. The 2018 budget earmarked $100,000 for heroin abuse. Contrast that with over $350,000 budgeted for lobbyists in 2018. This is the kind of spending priority I will question as a board member. Transportation within the County and to Chicago is also a very important issue. Maintaining and developing the DuPage economy hinges on providing the best transportation services available. My transportation background will help me question how transportation dollars are best spent in DuPage County.
What is your stance on county board members’ pay? Too high, too low, just right? Would you propose any changes?
The salary of $52,102 a year for county board members is too high for what is fundamentally a part-time position. Multiply that number by 18 board members and add in the county chairman and you are looking at about $1.1 Million of tax payer funds for 19 board positions. In contrast: in neighboring Will County, their Board members will receive $23,000 in 2018 to manage a budget 21% higher than DuPage County’s current budget. I have served for seven years on the Glenbard High School District 87 Board without pay, and it’s interesting to note that Illinois State Statute prohibits pay for school board members. My responsibilities as the Vice President of our School Board obligate me to attend our regular board meetings and to be a chair or member of several of our standing committees. It is expected that board members prepare for meetings by reading any background materials staff has forwarded to us. After that, the amount of time a board member spends interacting with constituents is up to the individual board member. I expect that the time commitment for the County Board is fairly similar. As for what I would change: one important concept I think everyone needs to understand is that one board member can certainly express his or her opinion, but only board-wide decisions are actually implemented. One thing I promise: I will not vote in favor of any salary increases for County Board members.
With DuPage County’s budget being squeezed by the state funding reductions, what initiatives would you support to increase revenue and/or save money?
The recently announced 2018 budget passed by the County Board indicates the County has not asked for an increase in taxes from DuPage county tax payers for the 10th straight year. Cuts in staffing for the sheriff’s office and other departments have been announced. I believe that every single staff position and line item should, of course, be analyzed as the County deals with cuts in State of Illinois funding, meanwhile dealing with some of the highest property taxes in the United States. In my experience on the Glenbard High School board we have had to deal with the reality that some of our costs, in spite of our very best efforts to conserve our fiscal resources, will indeed escalate. In particular, under our current health care system, a governing board like a school district or a county has to provide health care to their employees. These costs escalate, often far beyond annual projections. For the past 7 years I have sat on a Board that has operated in the black (only approximately 5% of Illinois School districts can make that claim.) If a tax increase is ever proposed, I promise that I will examine all budget considerations in light of providing essential County services. I have been a fiscally responsible board member for Glenbard District 87 and would certainly bring that same mindset to the County Board.