Conservation District Argues for Higher Taxes

In the agenda for the McHenry County Board’s Legislative and Audit Committee 8:30 AM meeting for April 10th appear resolutions saying that its members support the passage of two bills sponsored by State Senator Pam Althoff and Karen McConnaughay.

One would allow the issuance of non-referendum bonds.

The other would allow the hiking of the corporate rate by 50% after voter approval.  (The McHenry County Conservation Foundation, started with money I content should  have been put in MCCD coffers, financed the 2001 and 2007 bond referendums.)

The reason for the bond bill is obvious. No one notices non-referendum bonds. (For those in the Crystal Lake Park District, can you tell me how much non-referendum bonds are outstanding. Same with schools.)

Legislative and Audit Committee member Nick Provenzano said that passage of the bill would allow the Conservation District to sell

  • $4-5 million the first year
  • $8 million the second year
  • $25 million the third year

(This information is not included in the Conservation District memo below or in a supplement which will be published tomorrow.)

The reason for MCCD’s wanting to increase the basic tax rate from 10 to 15 cents a hundred dollars of assessed valuation is that the Property Tax Cap is finally going to benefit real estate taxpayers.

Those running tax districts, one may have noticed, almost think that maintaining and expanding their empires are more important than saving taxpayers money.

MCCD logo 2014SUPPORT -­ SB  3341 &  SB  3342

Amends  the  Conservation  District  Act (70  ILCS  410)
The   McHenry   County   Conservation   District, located in NE Illinois, was  established in 1971 for the purpose of preserving natural areas  and   historic/cultural sites, restoring wildlife habitat and providing trails, outdoor recreational  facilities, and education programs for the general  public to enjoy.
What  the  Proposed  Amendment  Does
SB  3341  and  SB  3342  make four (4) main  changes to  the  Conservation  District  Act  (70  ILCS 410) and  pertains  only  to the McHenry  County  Conservation  District:
  1. Corrects  a  stacking  issue  between  referendum  and non-­referendum bonds  when  calculating the  debt  limit. (SB  3341)
  2. Adds  a  refunded  bonds  piece  so  they  do  not  count  towards  limit  (a  refunded  bond  is  a  bond  that  is  still outstanding,  but  the  money  to  pay  for  it  is held in  an  irrevocable  fund  for  payment).  (SB  3341)
  3. Allows  real  property  development  using  non-referendum  bonds  for  limited  purposes  and  only  on  land  acquired via  referendum.  (SB  3341)
  4. Allows  the  District  to  ask  voters  for  a  corporate  rate  up  to  .15%  via  referendum.    The  current  rate  is  .1%. (SB  3342)

The  main  purpose  is  to  correct  an  unintended  consequence  that  occurred  when  the Conservation  District  Act  (70ILCS  410)  was  amended  in  1989  to  allow  the  McHenry  County Conservation  District  to  increase  its  maximum  debt limit  from  .575%  to  1.725%  through voter approved  referenda.    It  clarifies  that  voter-approved  bonds  are  excluded from  non-referendum debt  limit.

Recently  the  District  looked  to  finance  its  outstanding  debt  and  became  aware  of this  issue after  receiving  a  legal  opinion  from  bond  counsel  that the  statute  does  not  sufficiently distinguish  voter approved   bonds   from   those   bonds   issued   subject   to   the   District’s   non-­
referendum   debt   authority.     While   the District’s  bond  counsel  took  this  view,  other attorney’s  said  while  it  was  somewhat  unclear,  the District  probably  had the  authority under the  current  statute,  but should  follow  bond  counsel.
The  current  language  as  interpreted  by bond   counsel   would   penalize   the   District   for   asking   its   voters   for   the   additional   bonding.     Other conservation districts and  units  of local government  have  similar  statutory  authority  to  what  the  amendment  proposes.    The District  is looking  for  clarification  on  bonding  authority  to  sufficiently  distinguish  voter-­approved  bonds from  non-­referendum  debt  limit  so  that  bond  counsel  can  render  a  formal  legal  opinion.
The  District  is  also  asking  to  issue  non-­referendum  bonds  for  real  property  development,  but limited  to  the  purposes outlined  in  the  amendment,  which  include  maintaining  trails,  parking lots,  bridges,  ADA  requirements,  and  structure demolition  or  stabilization  as the  case  may  be.
There  are  a  variety  of  historical  structures  that  are  located  on  the land  acquired  with the
voter  approved  bond  issuances  that  people  want  access  to,  but  there  is  no  money  to  engage
in  those projects.
The  change  to  increase  the  general  corporate  rate  applies  only  to  McHenry  County Conservation  District and  has  to be  approved  by  the  voters  via  referendum.
As  the  largest  conservation  district  in  the  state,  the  District  is  facing budgetary  restrictions because  of  all  of  the  projects  voters  have  asked  for and  approved through  referenda.
Contact  Information
For  information,  contact  Elizabeth  S.  Kessler,  Executive  Director  of  the  McHenry  County Conservation  District  at 815.260.7206 or
Andy  Dylak,  Director  of  Finance  &  Administration  at  815.338.6223,  ext. 1226  or



Conservation District Argues for Higher Taxes — 5 Comments

  1. Contact Kessler and tell her to justify the $4,387,150.36 in salaries for last year!

    How about trying to justify her own $163,567.11 per year salary?

    Why do taxpayers have to pay these salaries to preserve nature?

    Why does MCCD have its own police force which is unionized?

  2. Not one more dime!

    Cal, the last paragraph states “the largest conservation district in the state”.

    I’m curious what this is based on, county owned conservation land or something else?

  3. There are very few Conservation Districts in existence. I know Boone County has one.

    Probably more Forest Preserve Districts.

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