Between this week and last the Crystal Lake Park Board seems to have undergone a collective brain transplant.
After sitting through an explanation of the tax levy process last week, I was convinced that taxpayers were going to be subjected to a “tax to max” vote Thursday night.
So sure was I that the headline on my last week’s article was
Park President Debbie Gallagher started out the discussion by hoping that the Finance Committee’s recommendation would be followed, otherwise what’s the use of having committees.
Committee Chairman Larry Wheeler, whose opinion last week was that all the money allowed under the Tax Cap should be taken, did not change his opinion, but did recommend a compromise.
The Park District would levy the maximum amount possible for the tax capped funds, but would reduce the Special Recreation Fund levy, which is not subject to the Tax Cap, enough so that the total taxes to be extracted from current taxpayers would be just under a half of one percent (0.45%).
Balances would be drawn down in various funds.
“I’m on the same page,’ Caroline Bachour-Chemaly concurred.
Gallagher noted that the proposal “captures new growth.”
“This is a far cry from what we had on the table [last week],” Mike Walkup, who resigned as of midnight in order not to have a conflict of interest when he takes office as a member of the McHenry County Board.
He later pointed out, “This is virtually a flat line.”
At the levy workshop, a consensus seemed to have been reached to ask for a 4.69% increase in the levy. Because the Consumer Price Index only increased 3% and new growth was estimated at about 3/10 of 1%, there was no chance of such an increase, but it was typical of the balloon levying most tax districts employed in boom times in order to get as much money as possible from the property tax.
Angel Collins, who was absent for the levy workshop said, “The time of just hitting it all the time might be gone for a little while.”
She supported scaling back the amount of taxes requested “in keeping with the understanding that people are having a hard time,” but noted it was “not something we can do all the time.
“We’re not a business where we can go out and raise our prices. We’re a government.”
When it was Paul Meyers’ time to talk, he said, “I know I was the renegade in this.”
As you can see by reading the article about the levy workshop, Meyer was the one who brought up the proposal to freeze the levy.
He pointed out that tax collections had increased 53% over the last ten years.
“I appreciate this is a group of people willing to compromise.”
Executive Director Jason Herbster the levy still captured the new growth and the increase in the CPI for those funds under the Real Estate Tax Cap.
“People shouldn’t be paying anymore than they did last year, except for the bonds.”
Collins observed that the Park District’s share of the tax bill was only about 5%.
“If you want a change, people need to go to the school districts,” she advised.
Gallagher prompted Herbster to tell of employee cutbacks.
He said the full-time staff was “down 9 from 73 to 64” since he became Executive Director.
Gallagher announced her support for the compromise, but said, “When times are tough like this more people will be using the parks and the library.”
“This isn’t something we can do three, four or five years in a row.”
Jerry Sullivan, one of the most vociferous advocates of not foregoing any of the new tax money allowed under the Tax Cap, was absent.
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After the vote I asked if I could speak out of turn and thank the Board.