Kim, McGuire go head-to-head in Lake County treasurer campaign – Chicago Tribune

Four years after she became Lake County treasurer in a blue wave election in 2018, Mundelein Democrat Holly Kim is facing a challenge from Republican Paula McGuire of Green Oaks.

Kim is touting nearly $10 million in investment income earned in 2020, up from $2 million four years ago, the launch of online billing to cut printing and postage costs and the launch of a 24-hour-a-day support system among her accomplishments.

She also said she has raised the profile of the office from a time when “nobody 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, contends that things aren’t going so well and that she can usher in changes to better serve Lake County residents.

“I think there’s a fine line to being a PR office, and actually having some sort of fiduciary professionalism in place as well,” McGuire said. “I think the primary focus would be on making sure the assets of the community are properly protected, and then you would make sure that the individuals in the community actually have access to any information they are seeking and perhaps you would report, obviously on a quarterly basis, what is going on in that office.”

Kim took the job with a vision to take a larger role than being an office that, “just collects the money” from property tax payments and manages a portfolio worth a few hundred million dollars in county assets.

“It’s true, this office just collects the money,” Kim said. “But, honest to God, with the way we invested and gave money back, it all helped the county to keep their levy flat for three years in a row because we got all these extra millions of dollars. So I guess there are ways that we can help.”

Kim said the increase in investment income has been in part due to investments made in avenues her predecessor, David Stolman, “didn’t realize” were available after updates in state statutes governing how county investments could be managed, including entering corporate and municipal bond markets.

She added that increase helps the Treasurer’s Office “give millions back” so that the Lake County Board can then “do things like road projects or flooding (mitigation).”

McGuire said has found herself wondering if the gains Kim has shared could be too good to be true.

“If I asked (Kim) specifics on that and how it occurred, I’m not sure that she could answer that question,” McGuire said. “I found it to be a tad, how do I say this…impossible. If you are investing according to the state regulations and you look at the rates of returns during those years, and I don’t want to answer her question for her, but in my mind the only way that you’re able to do that is if you have a huge influx in basis. I kind of tried to press her on that in another situation and she wasn’t really able to answer the question.”

Republican Paula McGuire of Green Oaks is challenging Democratic incumbent Holly Kim for the office of Lake County Treasurer in the Nov. 8 election.

McGuire said that if she were to win the office, she would want to make sure that investments are made in areas that are clearly allowed as defined in state regulations, something she said, “there’s some question as to whether or not that’s actually occurred in the past here over the last four years.”

“Because I’m not a politician, one of the things that most people say when they’re dealing with the office of treasurer is that they want to be more transparent and more accurate,” McGuire said.

She said that in order for residents to “get the details” about the office, “you have to FOIA it.”

Kim said she has made other improvements to benefit taxpayers, including lowering eCheck fees to free for online and phone payments, as well as a move to join the Illinois BankOn Commission, part of a mission to get people to avoid taking out payday loans.

“We work with the state; it’s really a movement in that we steer people away from payday loans and instead start a relationship with a bank or credit union,” Kim said. “There’s a lot of stuff that I’m involved in, and that this office has done to help the people.”

McGuire said her “stronghold is numbers,” and that she has the financial acumen to “act proactively instead of worrying about acting reactively.” A resident of Lake County for more than 25 years, McGuire said, she has experience in the insurance industry, banking industry and financial investment services.

She said the time was right to run for a public office since her children are grown and she isn’t one to sit back and gripe about things she would like to see change, rather than act to implement them herself.

“With the political climate the way it’s been over probably the last five years or so, I don’t think that anybody can really sit and complain about something unless they try to do something about it,” McGuire said.

Kim explained that a move during the pandemic to allow residents to make their property tax payments in four installments shows her ability to adapt and thrive in the role during challenging circumstances.

She said that 2022 has been the first “normal collections year” while in office after figuring out how to deal with new software launched by her predecessor, which she said had lots of “development issues.” Allowing four payments wasn’t practical, Kim said, “but it was the right thing to do.”

“What that did then in the third year I was here was that we were operating in two fiscal years, so it was hard on our accounting side to catch up,” she said. “There were some things like the tax sale that we had to pay for twice in one year.”

Kim said that she also has embraced an active role in pushing for legislative changes that help county residents, including one that ensured that more than 5,000 mobile homeowners in Lake County would have late penalties capped at $100 or 50% of their original tax bill, whichever is lower.

She said previously there were instances in Lake County where customers couldn’t keep up with their property taxes because of accruing late penalties, something she called a policy holdover from politicians she said wanted to “keep poor people poor.”

McGuire referred to an error 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 scheduled, as evidence that a change is needed locally.

Kim explained in a June Facebook post that the double charge occurred due to a “human error.”

McGuire, as well as some people who commented on Kim’s post, criticized the error for possibly having caused people’s bank accounts to be overdrawn, which causes overdraft fees to incur, and even having other scheduled payments disrupted.

“My question is, how do you split that process of two payments to four payments, but you don’t test it enough to make sure that it’s not going to double dip?” McGuire said. “I don’t understand how it could happen.”

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