McLean County Finance Committee met Aug. 7.
Here is the minutes provided by the committee:
Members Present: Chairman Jim Soeldner, Members Catherine Metsker, Chuck Erickson, Laurie Wollrab, Carlo Robustelli and Jacob Beard
Members Absent: Member Josh Barnett
Other Members Present: Members George Gordon, Sharon Chung, Logan Smith, Shayna Watchinski, Elizabeth Johnston
Staff Present: Ms. Camille Rodriguez, County Administrator; Mr. Eric Schmitt, Assistant County Administrator; Ms. Jessica Woods First Assistant Civil State’s Attorney; Ms. Julie A. Morlock, Recording Secretary;
Department Heads/Elected Officials Present: Ms. Kathy Michael, County Clerk; Ms. Rebecca McNeil, County Treasurer, Ms. Michelle Anderson, County Auditor; Ms. Marshell Thompson, McLean County Animal Control; Mr. Craig Nelson, Information Technologies Director
Chairman Soeldner called the meeting to order at 4:30 PM.
Chairman Soeldner presented the Minutes of the June 18, 2019 special meeting and July 3, 2019 regular meeting of the Finance Committee for approval.
Motion by Robustelli/Wollrab to approve the Minutes of the June 18, 2019 special meeting and July 3, 2019 regular meeting of the Finance Committee.
Chairman Soeldner confirmed there were no members of the public.
Ms. Rebecca McNeil, County Treasurer presented her monthly reports to the Committee. She went over the monthly revenue report including tax revenue. She indicated she would provide next month a summary of how tax payments are derived and funneled down to the County. She went over shared sales tax revenue numbers and indicated they are starting to receive second installments and would make a distribution at the end of August and then two distributions in September. Ms. McNeil went over the investment report. Mr. Soeldner asked if the rate reduction by the Fed affected investments. Ms. McNeil said it did affect some of the investments. She went over the employee benefit report and the Nursing Home Fund report.
Motion by Metsker/Beard to accept and place on file the County Treasurer’s Monthly Financial Reports.
Certificates for Real Estate Numbers 21-18-183-031 and 21-09-305-020 as well as Mobile Home Numbers: SG-00-0109, SG-00-0301A, PL-00-0308, HT-XF-0335, MB-00-0195, MB-00- 0046, NM-XA-0044, MG-00-0233A and MG-00-0210. Ms. McNeil went over process to surrender tax sale certificates. Mr. Soeldner asked if there was a reason they had seen more of this lately. Ms. McNeil said more activities because of tax deed proceedings entered earlier this year on these parcels. Ms. Metsker asked if a person renting a mobile home would be evicted if mobile home ownership were transferred. Ms. McNeil stated their office is not involved in that process. Ms. McNeil stated there are numerous notices as we try to return property back to the owner. Ms. Metsker said she did not question the process but felt compassion for those renters. Mr. Erickson stated he was not sure what statute says but usually when you acquire real estate the buyer takes ownership subject to the rights of the tenant in the property. He reiterated that he could not guarantee that, he felt it might be the case.
Motion by Robustelli/Wollrab to recommend approval of Request approval of Resolutions to Surrender Tax Sale Certificates for Real Estate Numbers 21-18- 183-031 and 21-09-305-020 as well as Mobile Home Numbers: SG-00-0109, SG-00-0301A, PL-00-0308, HT-XF-0335, MB-00-0195, MB-00-0046, NM-XA- 0044, MG-00-0233A and MG-00-0210
Ms. McNeil presented for action a request to approve a Resolution approving a Deed of Conveyance on parcel Number 35-03-102-003. Ms. McNeil went over this process and indicated this is a vacant parcel.
Motion by Robustelli/Beard to recommend approval of a Resolution approving a Deed of Conveyance on parcel Number 35-03-102-003.
Ms. McNeil stated that the information from annual tax sale would be presented to the Committee in the month of September.
Ms. Kathy Michael, County Clerk presented her monthly reports. (22:03) Ms. Metsker acknowledged our that County Clerk’s office is in top 20% for digitizing our records. Ms. Michael thanked her and said they have been working on it for several years but glad they have been doing it so that should there be a flood or fire the documents would be preserved.
(23:33) Mr. Robustelli said before he received his packet he learned about high dollar amounts requested for the election through the news media and wanted to make sure they have best information as we go into budget time. Mr. Robustelli said Ms. Michael had put together an ad hoc committee in March with President Dietz and asked if she was not at a point now where she had the same level of detail she had when the Committee appropriated the $215,000 in 2016. He said she had produced different options for the 2016 election with detailed information regarding amount of equipment, election judges. He said her report indicated she met with Ms. Rodriguez on the 25th and asked if she went to meeting with more detail than what the Committee had in front of them now. Ms. Michael stated that meeting was the first step in the budget process and while they had it broken down line item by line item, now is not the time to show those numbers, as it is still a work in progress. Ms. Michael said Committee would get defined figures when budget is produced but they have it down to about $300,000 they feel they need. She said they really need the iPads as their laptops are becoming obsolete because of windows 7 vs. windows 10. She said it is costly but will be a step in the right direction as a voter is processed quicker with the iPads. She said she had met with IT several times. Mr. Robustelli said it would be help him if she could provide an inventory of deployable laptops that were appropriated in 2016. He asked if the laptops are working or useful for the purposes they were purchased for. Ms. Michael said they would provide an itemized list of refurbished laptops that will no longer work with the new systems and would include a list other laptops they have that will not be adaptable. She said they cannot use some laptops and some iPads as it all has to be under the same system. She said they would provide the detail they provided in 2016 because people need to see that. Ms. Michael said they do not ask for money unless they feel they need it for the taxpayers and voters.
(29:22) Mr. Robustelli stated in her report she projected a turnout of 80-85% for the 2020 primary and general elections. He asked her to clarify she did not mean the primary. She agreed it should not have said primary. She said she had no way to predict the turn out but they are trying to make best educated guess based on what others tell them. She said they want to be ready for the biggest turnout they have ever seen, but questioned how much more they could afford to buy. She stated they would do the best they could with what they could buy and what they have. Mr. Robustelli said he appreciated that. He said there is data when it comes to administering our past elections and provided example of the two highest voting turnout areas of the county according of LeRoy and Randolph where 75% pulled republican ballots in the primary so he felt it was fair to say without a contested Republican primary we wouldn’t see that many voters. He said she also indicated in her report the average turnout for President’s elections has been 50% but average usually in the mid 30’s over the last six presidential elections. He stated data is available so wanted to make sure she provides the right data for them to base budget decisions on. Ms. Michael said she appreciated the comments and research, and asked them to please call or come in discuss. She stated the monthly report is a work in progress and will updated each month. Mr. Robustelli stated that over the last week there have been media reports about the cost of our upcoming elections whereas in the past there has been a process where they exchange information and use data to inform decisions. He indicated that she had provided information to the public that he was not able to discuss with his constituents, as there was no data to support the numbers. Ms. Michael indicated information would be presented and that she was trying to put general information out there so people would not be shocked, but felt the numbers were fairly accurate as they had spent months on the numbers and would present them line by line with proposed budget. Mr. Robustelli said thank you.
(34:50) Ms. Wollrab stated Ms. Michael had said she would present them with several budgetary scenarios and asked if that was something she was still planning to do. Ms. Michael said she would do what they did in 2016 and present options to them. Ms. Wollrab said that given different possibilities for ISU and possibly other precincts it would be good to have those options. Ms. Michael said they looked over numbers and different turn out scenarios several times to prepare the numbers. She said once they presented options it would be up to the Committee to determine final budget numbers. She said if they get approval for the $300,000 for the Ipads then it would be very close to the 1.3 or 1.4 million for the election cycle. She said they do not see those numbers changing very much for the election cycle even though they hope they do. Ms. Michael also stated they would continue to go through them to make sure they did not miss something. Ms. Wollrab asked if Information Technologies could explain why it is not possible to move to iPads in a gradual way. Ms. Michael said it would be discussed in detail later. Ms. Wollrab said she felt it would be a question the public would have. Ms. Wollrab asked if they have a time frame for when figures would come to the Committee. Mr. Schmitt said they continue to work to balance the budget for the presentation at the September full County Board meeting.
(38:29) Mr. Beard thanked her for information. He asked her to confirm that one of the benefits of iPads is it will reduce time for non-registered voters to complete voting process. He also asked her if they were to increase registration before Election Day at ISU, it would help to alleviate lines. Ms. Michael said both would speed up process for non-registered and registered voters. She said the committee at ISU is working with them on early registration. Ms. Michael said it might not change even if they go to all the effort, as they are not sure people will take advantage of the early registration. She said 90 % of voters at ISU were same day registration so iPads would help a lot too.
(41:39) Mr. Soeldner asked her if she knows when ISU is going to promote or give information on early voting and registration. Ms. Michael said they are several months out and just got calendar from the State so ISU is probably just now working out plans. She said ISU would have their social media and communication people to organize getting the word out.
(42:41) Ms. Wollrab said Ms. Michael had mentioned in one of her communications to the Committee that she was checking to see if students could register to vote when they register for classes and asked if that was a possibility. Ms. Michael said they were told by the ISU Committee that handles registration for classes that it was not a possibility.
(43:20) Mr. Soeldner asked if members had an objection to Ms. Chung speaking. No members objected. Ms. Chung said she was curious why County Administration or elected officials that represent that area were not included in the E-Team created with ISU and asked if they could be included in future meetings. Ms. Michael asked her to check with President Dietz as he formed the Committee. Ms. Chung asked if her figure of 400,000 extra dollars included the extra voting sites at ISU as she indicated up to eight sites but saw only one voting site confirmed. Ms. Michael indicated she received confirmation of Waterson after writing her report. Ms. Michael confirmed her budget would change based on sites confirmed. She said the budget is built for 4 locations so if they do not get all four then budget figure would go down. She said they hoped to have that information by their next meeting. Ms. Chung said early voting is not open past November 2. She said she felt students would be thinking about voting a few days before but cannot and she asked if that was something that could be changed. Ms. Michael said they were waiting for the final recommendations from ISU on that.
(47:40) Mr. Logan Smith asked her if she could give specifics about the note in her report written in red about how she and/or her office had been indirectly or directly accused by citizens of engaging in voter fraud or voter suppression. Ms. Michael indicated voter suppression is a big part of their cyber security programs and involves social media. She said their experience was during the 2016 election when on Facebook someone posted they were out of democratic ballots and voter registration forms, which was not true. She said some feel this is as dangerous as hacking because it is an effort to try to disrupt our voting process and we want everyone to know how serious that is and that we will be monitoring and reporting it. Mr. Smith asked if her or her office ascertained if any of those individuals spreading false information were outside agitators or were concerned citizens. Ms. Michael said they could not identify who that was but we want to be aware and make others aware. She said they have social media monitors involved now and have also asked the press to please confirm things they hear with her office first. Mr. Smith said she mentioned using the Illinois State Board of Elections and the Attorney General as a resource to combat this, and asked who makes the determination whether this is free speech or causing harm to the election process. Ms. Michael said she reports any concerns to Information Technology, Illinois State Board of Elections and Attorney General. Mr. Smith asked if they had thought about integrating a status page on the election page where citizens could look at status of polling place to see if problems had been reported or to report a problem instead of calling. Ms. Michael encouraged him to reach out to Mr. Nelson in Information Technologies, as Information Technologies would handle those suggestions. Mr. Smith said he wanted to clarify he was not slighting her web site, but stated it could use an upgrade similar to the Windows 7 upgrades. Ms. Michael said they looked forward to his input.
(55:10) Ms. Watchinski asked where Ms. Michael got her projection of 80 to 85%. Ms. Michael said while she came up with 50% turn out they want to be prepared because this could be the biggest turn out they have seen. Ms. Michael said experts and websites say averaging 75% for generals. She said she based requests on a higher turnout and if it is a 50% turnout then would have over bid. She stated that is why we are in constant discussions with administration to continue to go over our numbers. Ms. Watchinski asked her what numbers she is using, the past election information that Mr. Robustelli brought up or something else they were not privy to. Ms. Michael said they would be privy to it, they are in the process, so if they would wait until the next meeting for her to provide further details. She said it is a guess as to turn out and if the Committee wants to tell her to reduce budget numbers down to 50% turnout then they would consider that, but trying to do an average of more than usual because we anticipate a big turnout. Ms. Watchinski said she was just trying to get a better idea of numbers or data being used because in the conversations today she referenced fairly accurate numbers that she spent months and months on but then Ms. Michael also said still working on numbers. At this point there was further discussion about process and numbers. Mr. Soeldner indicated he was going to cut this off and indicated if Ms. Watchinski wanted to get further information from the County Clerk then she should go to her office.
(58:20) Mr. Erickson commended the County Clerk for her efforts to try to alleviate the problems at ISU. He pointed referenced an article that talked about Chicago voters facing hours long lines. He said long lines are not a problem unique to McLean County, so to come here and try to take it out on the County Clerk, he felt was a little bit over board. He said he felt the County Clerk was doing what she can and to expect her to have all of her numbers here when we are early in the budget cycle was bit too much. Mr. Erickson then went on to say that before he came to the meeting today he was able to go to the recorder’s office and record a mechanics lien in about a minute and a half and thanked Ms. Michael for the exceptional job the County Recorder’s office is going.
(1:00:00) Ms. Metsker asked Administration to confirm the budget was not scheduled to be approved until November. Ms. Rodriguez stated that County Administration had not requested any information be brought today.
(1:01:20) Ms. Wollrab said she did not expect final numbers today, but was concerned that the figures are being presented in the report and to the media and we are unable to respond to constituents with any data. She said that in one sentence we say we are early in the budget process and yet WGLT, other media and our packet show plenty of figures with no underlying data to support them. Mr. Soeldner said he felt we should wait until we get final information such as number of polling places. Ms. Rodriguez went over the budget time schedule.
(1:02:29) Ms. Michael said she did not have to provide the monthly report and only does as a courtesy to try to inform the public and the County Board. Ms. Michael went on to express her concerns about how people are trying to make McLean County look bad during the election process and how she felt they are trying to impede the process. Mr. Robustelli asked for order from the Chairman. Ms. Michael asked to continue to speak. Mr. Soeldner said he would let her finish. Ms. Michael said she was speaking as County Clerk and continued to express her concerns about people saying bad things about the County. Ms. Wollrab asked Mr. Soeldner to call the meeting to order. Mr. Soeldner asked Ms. Michael to wrap it up. Ms. Michael said they wanted information and now they are condemning her for putting out information to inform the public and the Committee. She said she would not give a monthly report again.
(1:05:00) Mr. Soeldner said if it was a pertinent question then he would allow Ms. Johnston to ask it. Ms. Johnston said she appreciated the effort to fix the voting process at ISU. She said she was concerned about the bold red section in the report as she felt it was excessive since there was no substantiated accusations of voter suppression or voter fraud happening. She said she felt the process would be in a different place if this were being operated by a non- partisan commission. Ms. Michael said she had no comment. Mr. Soeldner said that he felt they should cut this off.
(1:06:45) Ms. Rodriguez confirmed the budget process again for the Committee. Chairman Soeldner said he was going to move on as he had allowed everyone the opportunity to speak.
(1:07:45) Ms. Thompson, Director Animal Control presented her monthly reports. She went over future off site events. Mr. Soeldner said he had received several positive comments on the Animal Control Facebook Page. Mr. Erickson thanked Ms. Thompson for her help with information he had requested. Chairman Soeldner asked if there were any further questions or comments, hearing none, he thanked her.
Ms. Camille Rodriguez, County Administrator presented for action a request to approve critical hire requests.
Motion by Wollrab/Metsker to approve the critical hire requests. Motion Carried.
Ms. Camille Rodriguez presented her report on recent employment activities.
Under other business, Mr. Soeldner stated he had attended the Cannabis conference and many decisions would need to be made based on this new legislation, as it would affect several departments in the County. Mr. Soeldner asked if there were any other comments, hearing none, he moved on to the payment of the bills.
Chairman Soeldner presented the Finance Committee bills for review and approval as transmitted by the County Auditor.
Chairman Soeldner asked if there was anything else, hearing nothing he adjourned the meeting at 5:47 p.m.