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Johnson County Council District 1 Q&A: Jim Ray, republican


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What about your background and experience qualifies you to serve on the Johnson County Council?

Spent 50 years as an engineer working on government projects and gained familiarity with government boards and how they work from that experience. Knows what type of information officials want to hear when considering proposals and knows the questions he needs to ask.

What is the role of the council and its members?

They are responsible for managing the budget, not just for the county but other agencies, such as fire districts. Has experience as president of Amity Fire District in reviewing projects and deciding whether the taxpayers should be paying for them.

Define conflict of interest. If a conflict were to come up with you as a council member, how would you handle it?

Conflict is any item he might get some benefit from. Would publicly identify the conflict and abstain from voting. Would rely on attorneys to advise him on whether there is a conflict.

What is the top issue facing the county and how will you address it?

Ensuring the county has adequate public safety, including fire protection and police. Would make sure fire districts are appropriately funded to provide services and fund the sheriff’s office. The county also needs to properly fund roads and bridges and stretch the available tax dollars.

Should Johnson County approve an innkeeper’s tax to help promote tourism? Why or why not?

Local groups are already doing some marketing, so there may be a way to better organize them without a new tax. Wouldn’t decide yes or no until the council discussed and voted.

If the council were to approve an innkeeper’s tax, how should the money be spent?

Would want more specific information from proponents on what the county wants to promote. Would want a plan for specific locations and attractions that would be promoted, rather than a general plan that could be used in any county.

What steps should the council take to keep the budget balanced and not have to dip into savings?

Don’t spend more than the county collects in taxes. Don’t dip into savings except in emergencies. If departments want to make new purchases, ask them to find ways to pay for half the cost.

The county could raise the income tax to help pay for operating expenses, economic development or public safety. Would you support any income tax increase?

Right now, no. Would have to hear a good reason to do so.

The county wheel tax has been in place for more than five years. Should the county continue to charge this to motorists?

Would want to know how it is used for roads and bridges if he is asked to repeal it. The wheel tax doesn’t cost residents that much. Would not favor charging more for wheel tax.

Would you consider raising fees or taxes for services if there was a shortfall? If yes, what would you increase?

Would need to review the situation and would consider cutting services the county can’t afford. Prefers departments get by with what is available first. Is not interested in raising taxes.

The council decides if residents should vote on an income tax to support mass transit. Should that question be on the ballot? Would you support the increase?

Would not support a tax increase. Would want to review the transit plan and evaluate whether residents would use it and whether it would reduce traffic. Tax should be the last option considered.

Are there departments that you feel are spending more than they should be and how would you find savings?

Could not say until he has a chance to review department spending. Some departments spend a large amount, but the services are needed.

White River Township is one of the fastest-growing communities in the county. How should services, including road maintenance, police protection and parks be paid for?

Currently the county provides service like any other unincorporated area. Would support White River Township incorporating into a town to allow residents to fund their own services.

Health insurance for the commissioners and council members costs roughly $9,000 per year per person. Should council members receive health insurance?

Is 73 years old and on Medicare so does not need insurance. Is not in favor of providing health insurance to council members. Full-time county employees should continue to receive benefits.

What are the biggest financial challenges facing the county and how would you address them?

Was previously unaware how many people are employed by the county. County will need to continue to monitor staff size. Would review requests for new employees before considering spending more on staff.

How can the county afford to grow the sheriff’s office to keep more deputies on the streets?

Should they grow? Would review police service and costs before adding new officers. County should also seek more ways to reduce the number of people incarcerated at the jail. Would want to compare Johnson County Sheriff’s Office staffing to similar-sized departments before considering hiring new deputies.

Jail overcrowding is an increasing concern, and residents have voted down an expansion to the jail. How can the problem be solved? Do you support a jail expansion?

Wants more information on who is being confined at the jail. Is not in favor of setting additional inmates free to reduce crowding. Would want to see a proposal for needs, not wants, before deciding.

The council makes appointments to the park board, E-911 board and plan commission. What would you consider when making these choices? Should more candidates who aren’t involved in government but are reflective of the population be sought?

Was appointed by commissioners to Amity Fire District board. More residents with work experience that would be useful for boards. Would encourage and recruit new people instead of appointing the same people over and over.

The county will be getting a new court next year. How will new staff be paid for?

Doesn’t know. Has not reviewed figures on estimated costs and what money is available.

Is open government important? Why or why not? What will you do to ensure that the council is open and honest with the public?

Open government is more accountable to the people and voters. Has encouraged people to attend Amity Fire District meetings. Would want to keep people on topic when they are speaking at public meetings.

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