Laurel Prussing

Laurel Prussing

Democrat Party

County Treasurer Candidate

Questions & Answers

For the November 2018 Election

What is the importance of the County Treasurer to residents in Champaign County?

The County Treasurer is responsible for safeguarding and investing county funds and for collecting and distributing property taxes for all local units of government ( cities and villages, townships and special districts such as schools, drainage districts and the mass transit district).

In addition to the property tax system, the County operates elections, the court system, and basic local government functions such as law enforcement and zoning in areas outside cities and villages.

The budget to get this work done totals $130 million. There is a great need for more funds, or more efficient use of funds, for mental health and social services to reduce recidivism and prevent young people from getting on destructive paths by giving them good starts early on.

Like most local governments the County is experiencing financial difficulties. The solution to these problems is more difficult than it would be for the cities of Champaign and Urbana, for example. County government can only do what is specifically authorized by state law because it does not have home rule and is operating under property tax caps. The cities of Champaign and Urbana have home rule and are allowed to act in creative ways that comply with state law. The County can only do what is specifically spelled out by state law.

Much of the financial difficulty faced by local governments comes from actions by the state and federal governments. The Treasurer needs to be someone who can identify financial problems, work with other local governments to find solutions and work at the state and federal levels to implement those solutions.

Why are you qualified to be the County Treasurer?

I am an economist by education and professional experience. My background in public office includes 20 years in county government: four years as one of the three women first elected to the County Board and then 16 years as Champaign County Auditor (first Democratic woman elected county-wide). First County Auditor in Illinois to win awards for accounting and financial reporting and for budgeting (all from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada). Took an office which had been a backwater and transformed it into the best in the state.

I served in the legislature for one term and I have served as a public interest lobbyist (Legislative Director for American Association of University Women and Downstate Coordinator for Citizen Action/Illinois).

Mayor of Urbana (2005-2017: first woman). Led the city through the Great Recession and the loss of Carle hospital property taxes without cutting public services or laying off employees.

What is a key policy difference between you and your Opponent?

My record is one of innovation and of solving difficult financial problems by working cooperatively with others and staying focused until the problem is solved. As County Auditor (1976-1992) I showed the County Board how to hold the line on property taxes (they followed my advice!) We were the first local government in this area to self-finance worker’s compensation, saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Over time this has amounted to many millions of dollars. Other local governments later followed.

As County Auditor I had a much bigger job than my opponent, a more recent Auditor. In addition to accounting and auditing, I was responsible for preparing the budget and running all personnel functions: payroll, health insurance, worker’s compensation, pensions.

As Mayor of Urbana I led the way to controlling health insurance costs without reducing employee benefits. When Carle hospital stopped paying property taxes, almost $1 million to the city, they wanted to increase our employee health insurance ($3 million) by 10%.

I said “No” and we held the increase to zero for three years and then cut it 10% the 4th year by switching to Blue Cross. This saved the city a total of $3 million over four years without reducing employee benefits. Urbana may be the only employer in the United States-public or private- with this good a record. Other local governments followed our example. The City of Champaign later asked for and received a zero percent increase.

Is there anything else you would like to say to an undecided voter in Champaign County?

Local government gets the job done. It is the government level closest to the people and most responsive to their needs. Local governments in Champaign County have an unusually high level of cooperation. We talk to each other and work together on many issues. We jointly run the 911 system, for example.

This is a critical election coming up. Our democracy and our shared values are being threatened in ways we have never seen before. Every vote matters and it is important to vote for Democrats from the top of the ballot down to the last name listed. I would very much appreciate your vote and I will do a good job for you as County Treasurer.