WOODSTOCK – The McHenry County Board will vote on a budget Tuesday night that includes an 11.2 percent reduction in the county’s property tax levy.
Although the budget still needs a vote, McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks chalks the cuts going before the board as a victory.
“This is a promise to taxpayers fulfilled,” Franks said Monday. “We didn’t just meet the goal, but at 11.2 percent, we exceeded it.”
Franks, who took office in December as the first board chairman directly elected by voters, ran on a campaign of cutting the county levy by 10 percent. County government accounts for about 10 percent of residential property tax bills.
Before he took office, Franks said, the chairman made calls to county agencies and departments to get constituents to subscribe to an effort to cut property taxes.
“We convened to find efficiencies to cut 11.2 percent,” Franks said. “There was a lot of buy-in.”
The County Board is expected to vote on both the budget and a proposed $71.4 million property tax levy that is expected to collect $8 million less next year than the county collected this year.
“We made these cuts without cutting a single service or laying off a single employee,” Franks said. “We got a new set of eyes to question why we were doing certain things the way we were.”
Cuts are proposed to come from trimming levies for funds that have robust reserves and ending bond issuances. The county plans to cut $800,000 from the Division of Transportation’s levy, which will have more revenue next year because it has made the final payment on a $50 million road projects bond.
The largest cut – $5,030,995 – targets the county’s general fund. The abatement includes $882,585 in freed money after the county made the final payment on a capital project that bought a Motorola radio system.
The biggest change in the general fund is abating $2.8 million that came from a levy for Valley Hi Nursing Home. County Board members had considered using the levy next year as a fund to pay for one-time capital projects, given that the county-owned nursing home west of Woodstock has amassed a significant surplus fund, County Administrator Peter Austin said.
The proposed budget cuts $743,653 from the highway fund levy collected by the county, plus an additional $107,507 in matching funds. The budget would cut the mental health fund levy by $500,000.
Other proposed levy cuts include $317,478 from the $4 million levy for Social Security and cutting the liability insurance fund levy $999,929, or
80 percent – the fund to cover the county’s liability in lawsuits has a $14 million reserve.
The budget proposal aims to cut the county government’s six-month fund reserve to five months over several years, and use that $7.2 million to pay for needed building improvements. Those include work on a government parking lot, a courtroom remodel and replacing portable radios for authorities such as the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office.
Franks hopes the budget will serve as an inspiration in other counties.
“We’re leading by example,” Franks said. “By cutting our levy by 11.2 percent, we’re going to be using our bully pulpit to talk to other to governments to lower their property taxes.”
Going forward, Franks hopes to continue a trend of shaping budgets in service of taxpayers he believes are overburdened by taxes.
“This is not the end of what we’re doing,” Franks said. “We’re going to continue looking for meaningful cost efficiencies. We need to give our overtaxed residents meaningful cuts.”
A copy of the proposed budget can be found on the county website, www.co.mchenry.il.us. Fiscal 2018 begins Dec. 1.
If you go
WHAT: McHenry County Board meeting
WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Administration Building, 667 Ware Road, Woodstock