DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin said that the stormwater fee bill passed in August, which some have called a "rain tax," is still very much up for debate.
During his State of the County address at the Naperville Chamber of Commerce general membership luncheon Sept. 23, Cronin touched on a variety of issues before business leaders and elected officials.
Naperville Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mike Evans said that Cronin's reputation was as a "reformer," and that the speech was an opportunity for businesses in the area to "check in with Dan, and learn what he and other members of the Board have been up to in the last year."
Alongside a presentation about his recently-unveiled $3.1 million budget cuts was an update on the controversial bill allowing DuPage County to pass a new fee-based system for stormwater management.
Cronin said that, while he has spoken to the Naperville Chamber about the County in previous years, he wanted to address some specific concerns.
"I reassured them that if this is not something that the community wants to do, and after an informed discussion about it we come to the conclusion that we'd prefer to just fund stormwater projects with a property tax, that's okay," Cronin said after his address. "I don't have to go in another direction. But I owe it to the community to explore alternative ways to provide government services."
Cronin said that the fee, based on the amount of stormwater displaced by a property, would make the current property tax system "go away under my proposal," but that "nothing has been decided."
"I'm not sure people understand that," he said. "It's a replacement. It's a tax or a fee that will be, I think, far more fairly imposed than a property tax."
While severe weather has racked the area, Cronin said in his speech that the local economy is improving slowly. He said that he and his fellow County chairmen have "pledged to work together to promote a business growth model here and the good news is I think we've had some influence in making things happen."
Cronin mentioned the Illiana Tollway and Elgin O'Hare Western Access projects as two potential drivers of economic development in the area.
While the county's unemployment rate of 8.1 percent is lower than the rest of the region's, he said, "it's still unacceptable." In addition, he said, the area housing market has shown signs of improvement, as home prices have risen by about 10 percent during the last two years.
Cronin said that the budget cuts, which included no new tax hikes or county jobs, more outsourcing to private entities and greater efficiency, were part of a trend in DuPage County.
Cronin said that the DuPage Accountability, Consolidation and Transparency policies, which helped align the ethics policies of more than 20 organizations, and the formation of a task force to investigate better uses for the DuPage County Fairgrounds served as examples of optimization of county resources.
"I embrace the mission of county government, and we do have a very, very important mission," he said. "But I do think that we can do more with less."