Four years after becoming Lake County treasurer in a 2018 blue wave election, Mundelein Democrat Holly Kim faces a challenge from Republican Paula McGuire of Green Oaks.
Kim touts nearly $10 million in investment income earned in 2020, up from $2 million four years ago, the launch of online billing to reduce printing and postage costs and the launch of a 24-hour support system among its achievements.
She also said she had raised the profile of the office from a time when “no one really knew anything about the Treasurer’s Office”, despite a host of challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
McGuire, a longtime accountant for PwC, says things aren’t going so well and she can usher in changes to better serve Lake County residents.
“I think there’s a fine line in being a PR office and having some sort of fiduciary professionalism in place as well,” McGuire said. “I think the main focus would be to make sure that community assets are properly protected and then you would make sure that individuals in the community actually have access to all the information that they are looking for and maybe you would report, of course on a quarterly basis, what is going on in this office.
Kim took the job with a vision to play a bigger role than just being an office that “just collects the money” from property tax payments and manages a portfolio worth a few hundred million dollars. dollars in county assets.
“It’s true, this office is just collecting the money,” Kim said. “But honestly to God, with the way we invested and returned money, it all helped the county keep its levy flat for three straight years because we got all those extra millions of dollars. So I guess we can help in different ways.
Kim said the increase in investment income was partly due to investments made in ways that his predecessor, David Stolman, “didn’t realize” were available after updates to state laws governing the management of county investments, including the seizure of corporate and municipal bonds. markets.
She added that this raise helps the treasurer’s office “give back millions” so the Lake County Board can then “do things like road projects or flood (mitigation).”
McGuire said she wondered if the wins shared by Kim might be too good to be true.
“If I asked (Kim) specifics about it and how it happened, I’m not sure she could answer that question,” McGuire said. “I found that to be a bit, how do you say that…impossible. If you’re investing according to state regulations and looking at the rates of return over those years, and I don’t want to answer to her question in her place but in my opinion the only way to do that is if you have a huge base influx I kind of tried to press her on that in another situation and she didn’t haven’t really been able to answer the question.
McGuire said that if she were to win the job, she would want to ensure that investments are made in clearly permitted areas as defined in state regulations, which she said, “there is a question whether or not this has actually happened in the past here for the past four years.
“Because I’m not a politician, one of the things most people say when dealing with the treasurer’s office is that they want to be more transparent and more specific,” McGuire said.
She said that in order for residents to “get the details” on the desk, “you need the FOIA.”
Kim said she has made other improvements to benefit taxpayers, including reducing eCheck fees to free for online and phone payments, as well as joining the Illinois BankOn Commission, in the part of a mission to get people to avoid taking out payday loans.
“We work with the state; it’s really a move in that we’re moving people away from payday loans and starting a relationship with a bank or credit union instead,” Kim said. “There are a lot of things I’ve been involved in that this office has done to help people.”
McGuire said her “stronghold is numbers” and that she has the financial sense to “act proactively instead of worrying about acting reactively”. A Lake County resident for more than 25 years, McGuire said, she has experience in the insurance industry, banking industry and financial investment services.
She said now was the right time to run for public office since her kids are grown and she’s not one to sit around and complain about things she’d like to see changed, rather than d act to implement them itself.
“With the political climate as it has been for the past five years or so, I don’t think anyone can really sit down and complain about something unless they’re trying to do something,” McGuire said. .
Kim explained that a decision during the pandemic to allow residents to pay their property taxes in four installments shows her ability to adapt and thrive in the role under difficult circumstances.
She said 2022 was the first “normal collection year” during her tenure after figuring out how to handle new software launched by her predecessor, which she said had many “development issues”. Allowing four payments was impractical, Kim said, “but it was the right thing to do.”
“What it did then in the third year that I was here was that we were running two fiscal years, so it was hard for our accounting to catch up,” she said. “There were certain things like the tax sale that we had to pay twice in a year.”
Kim said she’s also taken an active role in advocating for legislative changes that help county residents, including one that ensured more than 5,000 mobile home owners in Lake County would have capped late fees. $100 or 50% of their initial tax bill, as applicable. is lower.
She previously said there were instances in Lake County where customers were unable to pay their property taxes due to accrued late penalties, which she called a policy holdover from politicians who, according to she wanted to “keep the poor in poverty”.
McGuire pointed to a mistake made earlier this year when many residents mistakenly had both installments of their property taxes withdrawn from their bank accounts, instead of the first payment as expected, as evidence that a change is needed. locally.
Kim explained in a June Facebook post that the double charge happened due to “human error.”
McGuire, as well as some people who commented on Kim’s post, criticized the error for possibly causing bank accounts to be overdrawn, resulting in overdraft fees, and even the disruption of other scheduled payments.
“My question is, how do you split this two-payment process into four payments, but not test it enough to make sure it’s not going to double?” McGuire said. “I don’t understand how this could have happened.”