The two candidates vying for supervisor of Downers Grove Township are working hard to promote the township and its service to taxpayers.
Incumbent Republican Frank Wurster will face Democratic challenger Karol Ann Sole in the April 9 Consolidate Election for supervisor.
The township supervisor oversees the township's general assistance fund, serves as chairman the township board of trustees and works with the many villages within the township, including Downers Grove, Westmont, Hinsdale, Darien and part of Woodridge.
Wurster, a Downers Grove resident who served eight years as a township trustee before being elected to the supervisor postion in 2009, said he has the experience to continue leading the township for four more years.
"I have been involved in the township for 12 years, and have over 20 years in supervisor experience in the private sector before that," Wurster said. "I believe I have the experience to lead the township and to address the issues that face us."
Sole, a Westmont resident who works as an industrial engineer — she said she has more than 20 years in the fields of environment, health and safety — thinks that Downers Grove Township can provide services more efficiently and effectively that what it is currently offered.
"I can provide the leadership needed to optimize their functions," Sole said. "If elected, one of the first things I will do is look at the budget line by line and look at what is being underutilized, and what can we fund better, or cut back in some cases."
Downers Grove Township operates on an approximate budget of about $3 million. All revenue comes from real estate taxes. Less than 2 percent of the taxes that property owners pay operate the township. Wurster said over his term the township has addressed budget cuts by saving $350,000 through salaries and employee benefit cuts. He said his own salary has been cut by $120,000 over the length of his term, salaries of trustees were cut from $6,000 to $4,800 annually, and the township clerk's salary was cut from $27,000 to $20,000.
"We have also cut benefits from staff, and changed some of our staff positions from full-time to part-time in an effort to save more money over the past few years," Wurster said.
But Sole believes more can be done when it comes to the operating budget. She said the tax rates have gone up for the past three years, and that, if elected, she will look at ways to adjust expenses so that the township does not have to keep raising the tax levy each year.
"I would look to do a complete evaluation of all their expenses and see where more cuts could be made," Sole said. "I think we can operate more efficiently without having to raise the levy each year."
Sole also believes Downers Grove Township needs to develop a five-year strategic plan so they have some kind of guide when it comes to budgeting and serving the needs of township residents more long-term.
For years, Sole said the township has been searching for an indentity and role, and that long-term planning would assist in identifying itself to residents.
For Wurster, one of his goals if re-elected will be to look at a possible cost sharing with municipalities for one of the township's most popular programs, the Senior Citizen Dial-A-Ride Program.
The program provides seniors with free transportation for doctors visits, shopping and other needs. Wurster said it could be cost efficient to partner with local municipalities in helping offset costs of the program.
"Naperville Township has done this, where they have partnered with the city of Naperville to expand the program," Wurster said. "I believe a similar thing could be done with some of the municipalities in our own township."
When it comes to one of the other roles of the township — maintaining unincorporated roadways — Sole believes more can be done in partnerships with other municipalities as well.
"I have seen incidences where plow trucks, while clearing streets, will actually lift their plows for a couple blocks to pass through municipal areas, then lower them when they get back on township roads," Sole said. "Things like that can be more effectively managed with a little more cooperation between other entities."
The candidates Frank WursterAge: 74Residence: Downers Grove for 35 yearsPolitical affiliation: RepublicanOccupation: Retired from Lucent Technologies, Inc.; Downers Grove Township supervisor since 2009Community service: Member of the Westmont Lions Club; active at St. Mary of Gostyn Church
Karol Ann SoleAge: 60Residence: Westmont for nine yearsPolitical affiliation: DemocratOccupation: industrial engineer for more than 20 yearsCommunity service: Membership in the National Association of Parliamentarians
What is the role of the Township? Downers Grove Township has three major roles: • Property assessments: The township handles the assessment of real estate in the township, which determines property taxes. Downers Grove Township is one of the largest townships, with more than 53,000 real estate parcels, according to the township office.
• Maintaining roads: Downers Grove Township maintains about 70 miles of roadway in unincorporated areas, ensuring they are safe for motorists. • Human services: The township provides services such as the Dial-A-Ride Program, a Peer Jury where youth offenders can get a "trial" from their peers for nonviolent crimes, Seniors and Law Enforcement Together (SALT), which is a partnership between police and seniors to help protect themselves from crimes, and a newsletter that keeps seniors up-to-date on what is going on in their communities.
For a complete list of services provided by Downers Grove Township, visit www.dgtownship.com.