Farney and Prussing Compete For Champaign County Treasurer

October 29, 2018
 
Champaign County Treasurer candidates John Farney and Laurel Prussing.

Republican candidate & interim County Treasurer John Farney (L) and Democratic candidate Laurel Prussing.

Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media

Two former county auditors, John Farney and Laurel Prussing, are competing on the November ballot for the post of Champaign County Treasurer.

The county treasurer is responsible for collecting local taxes, distributing the revenue to local governments, and investing the county’s portion of those funds.

Republican candidate John Farney is already the county treasurer. He left his position as Champaign County Auditor to become the interim treasurer at the start of 2019, following the retirement of long-serving treasurer Dan Welch.

The county treasurer is responsible for collecting local taxes, distributing the revenue to local governments, and investing the county’s portion of those funds.

Farney said that unlike the auditor, who mostly works with other county departments, the treasurer interacts a lot with taxpayers, in his job as the county’s tax collector.

“You get to work with people,” said Farney, “and that's what I really at this point in my career wanted to do. I'd like to be a problem solver. I like to try to help folks.  And in the treasurer's office, every single day I get to deal with folks whether they come in off the street to pay their tax bills or have questions about the exemptions process.”

If elected to a full term, Farney said he’ll focus on treating every member of the public with dignity and respect.

“We’re going to do our best to make sure that we answer your questions, and that if there are ways for us to help you, we’re going to do that,” said Farney.

Farney says that with scheduled upgrades to the county’s computer software, he would like to offer more online services to save people the trouble of coming to his office. He says a phone app for paying property tax bills might be one possibility.

Farney’s Democratic opponent, Laurel Prussing, served four terms as Champaign County Auditor, first winning election in 1976. Prussing says that i before Champaign County had a county administrator, the auditor had additional duties, such as putting a budget plan together, and overseeing payroll and fringe benefits for county staff.

Her political career also has also included a term in the Illinois House, and three terms as mayor of Urbana.

If elected Champaign County Treasurer, Prussing says she’d go “beyond the basics” to serve as a financial advisor to the county board and the new office of county executive.

“My specialty is solving tough problems, you know, getting together with people and figuring out what the best answers are,” said Prussing. “And that’s what I really like to do.”

Prussing says the county needs to be ready if Illinois’ financially strapped state government tries to take revenue from local governments --- especially county governments that --- with the exception of Cook County --- lack home rule powers.

“So I think you need a team at the local level to make sure you don’t really get destroyed by some of the actions of the state of Illinois,” said Prussing.

Prussing said that as county treasurer, she would also push to have Champaign County work with other local governments.

“I think we all face some of the similar problems, that the state cuts back on the income tax that they give us and they (have) started charging us for collecting sales tax for us,” said Prussing. “So all those things hit our budgets and make it harder for us to do our job.”

Both candidates for county treasurer are looking forward to long-needed updates in county software for tax billings and collections. The current software dates back to the 1980’s,

“I think the Treasurer's office is able to do the billing and collecting right now,” said Prussing. “But I think the system is just outdated and needs to be brought up to standards. It's not where it should be.”

If elected to a full term as treasurer, Farney said he would want to make sure that upgrades in county software are installed without disruption for taxpayers. He said that the upgrades would allow him to work towards offering more online services to save people the trouble of coming to his office. Farney said a phone app for paying property tax bills might be one possibility.

Story source: WILL