Prenzler eyes tax cuts and ethics, Kern targets jobs and economy

By Bob Pieper For Chronicle Media

St. Clair County Board Chair Mark Kern

Tax cutting and ethics will be top priorities in Madison County over the next four years, according to newly elected Republican County Board Chair Kurt Prenzler.

Returning for a fourth term, Democratic St. Clair County Board Chair Mark Kern promises to place continued emphasis on job creation and economic development.

Prenzler defeated long-time Madison County Board chair Alan Dunstan, a Democrat, in the November general election. Kern held off a challenge from Republican Roger Cook.

“My overall goals are to improve ethics and tax reduction from the county government,” Prenzler said, after taking the oath of office Dec. 5 at the Madison Administration Building.

Madison County Board Chair Kurt Prenzler

He contends Madison County is currently assessing $3 million to $4 million more in taxes each year than is necessary to maintain operations. County tax rates can therefore be lowered without cutting back on county services, he says.

Prenzler cites a tax reduction referendum, approved during the November election, as evidence of demand for lower taxes in Madison County.  Approved by a margin of 79 to 21 percent, the referendum reduces the maximum county property tax rate from 25 to 20 percent of assessed valuation.

Prenzler, a certified public accountant with ties to the GOP’s Tea Party wing, will likely find support for his budget reduction plans among county board members.

For the first time in decades, Republicans hold a majority on the board and well over half over board committees are chaired by GOP members. Committee assignments were announced by Prenzler during the county board’s Dec. 5 reorganization meeting, following swearing-in ceremonies.

Prenzler, who has served as Madison County treasurer since 2010, has not announced his replacement for that office.  However, he did announce a new slate of top level administrators during the Dec. 5 board meeting, including:

  • County Administrator Doug Hulme, replacing longtime administrator Joe Parente,
  • Community Development Director Kristen Poshard, replacing Frank Miles.
  • Director of Administration Stephen J. Adler, an outgoing county board member who will assist Hulme with county operations,
  • Animal Control Director Michael Firsching, DVM,
  • Facilities Management Director Christopher K. Doucleff, replacing Kurt Geschwend.
  • Employment and Training Director Harold Lee Wathan Jr., replacing David Stoecklin.

Prenzler retained current Emergency Management Director Larry Ringering, Health Department Director Toni Corona, and Safety and Risk Management Director Annette Schoeberle.

Poshard earned an Illinois Innovative Solutions Award and a front-page USA Today feature for helping more than 1,500 laid-off families in five counties successfully move into high-growth occupations.

Prenzler’s and Poshard’s approaches to economic development could be important as the county begins work on a new, five-year comprehensive plan in 2017.

Prenzler has reinstated Bradley Lavite as head of the county’s Veterans’ Assistance Commission. Lavite, who reportedly suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, was banned from county offices following a workplace disturbance in March.

While the St. Clair County Board is not scheduled to hold its reorganization meeting until January, Kern made economic development a major theme during his reelection campaign.

“Over the last year, we have seen expansions at MidAmerica Airport, Scott Air Force Base and much needed improvements to our vital infrastructure. All of these efforts have helped create quality jobs and make St. Clair County the largest county south of Chicago,” Kern’s campaign website proclaims.

Re-enforcing St. Clair County’s status as a major transportation hub — with interstate highways, major Class 1 railroad connections, two airports and the Mississippi and Kaskaskia rivers — is central to those development efforts, Kern continues. Among major transportation-related projects, underway or set for implementation during 2017 in the county:

  • Additional entrance and exit ramps linking the new Stan Musial Memorial Bridge across the Mississippi River with the East St. Louis-Sauget area,
  • The East St. Louis Front Street project, designed to provide a Metro-East counterpart to renovated Gateway Arch grounds in St. Louis and, eventually, part of the terminus complex for Illinois Chicago-St. Louis high speed rail line.
  • A new I-64 Interchange in O’Fallon serving Scott Air Force Base,
  • The I-64 Corridor Project to attract addition development along the interstate,
  • A new I-270 interchange and surrounding real estate development at Dupo.
  • initial land acquisition for the Gateway Connector, a planned eastern outer-belt roadway around Metro-East, and
  • Additional grain handling capacity along the Mississippi from Dupo to East St. Louis.

Other major economic development efforts include redevelopment of the former National City Stockyards site and Belleville’s East End, according to Kern.

Boards in both counties have authorized their animal control departments to establish “no-kill” animal shelter during 2017.





— Prenzler eyes tax cuts and ethics, Kern targets jobs and economy —