Information from MCCD about Tax Cap, Building Repair Problems

MCCD logo 2014More information being provided to the County Board’s Legislative and Audit Committee 8:30 AM April 10th meeting about the McHenry County Conservation District’s attempt to obtain more taxing power through the bills that State Senator Pam Althoff has introduced is below.  Yesterday the first “poop sheet” was published.

SUPPORT SB 3341 & SB 3342

Amends the Conservation District Act (70 ILCS 410)


McHenry County Conservation District

Located in a county with more than 300,000 inhabitants, McHenry County Conservation District created in 1971 is unique and considerably larger in size and scope than any of the other four (4) county conservation districts in the State of Illinois (Boone, Macon, Putnam and Vermillion). Serving an urban/suburban/rural county contiguous to the counties of Cook, Lake, Kane and Boone requires balancing the high demand for public access and site amenities while preserving the natural and cultural heritage that defines the region.

Today, the McHenry County Conservation District is responsible for the guardianship of more than 25,000 acres of open space and 32 conservation areas, 30 miles of regional trails that provide access to over 100 miles of an integrated trail network, and is nationally recognized as a leader in conservation and environmental stewardship . In addition to local preservation efforts, the District played a collaborative role in establishing the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge in NE Illinois and SE Wisconsin.

Successful Voter-­‐Approved Referenda for Preservation, Restoration & Public Access Recreation Improvements

In response to the growing population in McHenry County, the McHenry County Conservation District obtained statutory authority through the Illinois General Assembly in 1989 to increase its
maximum debt limit from .575% to 1.725% through voter approved referenda.

From 2000-­‐2007 the EAV of McHenry County grew 90%, averaging more than a 9% annual rate of growth, creating an unprecedented pressure on open space to be lost to residential and commercial development.

In  order to protect their open spaces and natural resources from development threats, McHenry County residents overwhelmingly approved two separate Conservation District General Obligation Bond Issuances:

  • the first for $68.5 million in 2001 and
  • a second for $73 million in 2007.

With the proceeds from these two bond issuances, the District experienced an amazing rate of growth,

  • acquiring 12,155 acres of open space (doubling the amount of land under its protection),
  • created 8 miles of regional bike trails and 34 miles of multi use trails, and
  • developed 21 additional sites to provide public access.

Several of the properties acquired such as

  • Camp Algonquin (circa 1907) located along the Fox River and
  • Kennedy Way Station and Inn -­‐ Stage Coach Stop (circa 1853) at Brookdale Conservation
  • Area McConnel Farmstead (circa 1852)

contain historic structures falling in disrepair and require stabilization and restoration to preserve them for current to future generations, others require universal access improvements to comply with the Americans with  Disabilities Act as well as the removal of unsafe structures before public access can be granted.

During this time, the District was able to successfully manage this astonishing rate of growth through prudent management of tax revenues available to it under the limits of the Illinois Property Extension Limitation Law (PTELL).

However, after reaching its peak in 2008, McHenry County’s EAV fell by more than 25% through 2012 and an additional 8% decline is forecasted for 2013.

The decline in EAV has resulted in the District reaching its maximum statutory tax rate (1/10th of 1% of the EAV) of its corporate levy, which accounts for 83% of the District’s total annual operating revenue.

The reduced maximum statutory rate will cause the District to lose an estimated $2 million dollars of property tax revenue over the next five years.

Facing Budgetary Restrictions–Responsibility to Protect Voter-­‐Approved Public Investments

With a total annual operating budget of $9 million dollars, drastically reduced future tax revenues, and the extraordinary growth the District experienced from the referendum approved bond issuances, the District can no longer afford to adequately maintain all the critical infrastructure, assets and natural resources in public trust currently under its management.

Most  recently,  as  the  District  looked  to  refinance  its  outstanding  debt,  the  District became aware  of  the  stacking  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  would  penalize the  District  for  asking  its  voters for  the additional  bonding  authority  and  places  the  McHenry  County  Conservation  District at  a disadvantage  from  other  conservation  districts  as  well  at  other  units  of local government  who have  similar statutory  authority.

It corrects  an  unintended  consequence that  occurred  when  the  Conservation  District  Act (70 ILCS  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.

SB3341 adds  a  refunding  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 also   provides  McHenry   County   Conservation   District   the   flexibility   to   use   non-­referendum  bonding  authority  for  the  development  of real property acquired  with  voter-­‐approved  referendum  bonds for  a  limited  and  specific  purpose.

Development  is  limited  to the  improvement  or  maintenance  of  existing  trails,  parking  lots,  bridges,  roads,  picnic shelters,  and  other  improvements, adding  or  improving  access  to conservation  areas  to comply   with   the   Americans   with   Disabilities   Act,   demolition   of   unnecessary   or   unsafe   structures   and   the  stabilization,  revitalization  or  rehabilitation  of  historic structures.

SB  3342 allows  only  the  McHenry  County  Conservation  District  to  ask  voters  for  a  corporate  rate  up  to  .15%  via  referendum.

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 ADylak@MCCDistrict.


Information from MCCD about Tax Cap, Building Repair Problems — 5 Comments

  1. How about a little bit of transparency?

    Let MCCD post their check book on-line!

    What is the cost of all the vehicles marked “POLICE”?

    How can anyone justify the salary being paid to Kessler and the number two person?


  2. How about during times were the “normal” taxpayer is cutting back to survive at least that one of the 7,000 government entities of this great state of Illinois actual stop buying land and try to be more efficient?

    Actually, all 7,000 should be better stewards of the money given to them and having the privilege of being involved with something they have the passion for doing.

    Is their pay for “daily bread” a little to high?

    Need transparency, job description, and true comparison to private and public sector similar jobs.

  3. Numbers guy – do you have a link to this?

    I go to the McHenry County Government website but its designed so poorly I cannot find it.


  4. 1) I do not understand the “stacking” issue. Can someone explain it better than MCCD did?

    2) I thought all Illinois municipal governments could increase their operating levy by the rate of inflation no matter what happened to the assessed value of the tax base. How is it that they are “losing” $2 million? Again, I’m asking because I’m confused. Is the law different for conservation districts?

    3) I note that MCCD says it is already “considerably larger in size and scope than any of the other four county conservation districts.” If this is so, why does it need to be still larger? Can they posit any objective criteria so that a citizen could judge how much is enough? To be frank, I am always leery of special purpose units of government asking for more, because they ALWAYS think more is better. But as a citizen, at some point, we have spent enough. So, MCCD, by what objective criteria can we say you need more taxes? (And “our budget is stressed” is NOT a criterion.)

  5. Non-Home Rule tax districts have rate limits.

    My understanding is that the Conservation District is at that 10 cent per $100 assessed valuation limit.

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