County Eliminates $3 Million Valley Hi Tax

The all-Republican McHenry County Board  Tuesday night voted unanimously to cut the tax levy for the Valley Hi Nursing Home to zero.

The significant amendment did not even require a roll call, as County Board Chairman Joe Gottemoller called for a voice vote.

In recent years it has been pegged at $3 million, down from $6 million the year the building bonds were paid off.

Ralph Sarbaugh, Associate County Administrator for Finance, said it would save the average home about $30.

When discussion pointed toward victory for the tax cutters on the County Board, County Administrator Peter Austin said, “Never before this year have we considered collecting less money.”

The problem from the public administrators’ point of view was that cutting the amount to be collected next year could lead to losing the authority to collect the lose tax forever.

A complicated discussion about how the $40 million “in reserves” could be give back to taxpayers took much of the time spent on the tax levy on Tuesday night.

Valley Hi Nursing Home fund's cash on hand from FY 2006 through FY 2016 (projected).

Valley Hi Nursing Home fund’s cash on hand from FY 2006 through FY 2016 (projected).

It started with Finance Committee Chairman Mike Skala proposing to abate the $3 million levy for two years with the intent of re-imposing it in the third year.

This was a completely new idea that most of the Board members had never encountered before the meeting (although Finance Committee member Yvonne Barnes read Committee minutes from ten months ago when she asked about the abatement process).

Barnes was particularly upset with the procedure that Skala followed, making a long motion incomprehensible to most in the room.

“The way this was handled was absolutely unacceptable,” concurred Diane Evertsen.

A break was taken to try to figure out what was going on.

Finance Committee member Nick Provenzano had done some homework with the County Clerk and concluded that just abolishing the levy was preferable to passing it with $3 million, as Skala suggested, and hoping that amount would be abated before tax bills were determined.

“I fully support the amendment that Nick [has proposed], Barnes said.

“I don’t have any confidence that we’ll get an abatement passed [before April 1st].”

Getting rid of the Valley Hi levy was brought up first by Mike Walkup, the man running against Gottemoller for County Board Chairman.  He did so in the Finance Committee, on which he does not serve.

Chuck Wheeler sought to amend the Valley Hi levy down by $750,000, but did not get enough votes.

Without the amendment, and with one committee member leaving early, the levy did not receive approve either.

A second meeting was necessary at which the money Wheeler sought to excise from the levy was approved.

A month ago no amendments were accepted to the levy.  Members were told to wait until Tuesday night’s meeting.

Skala said he made his motion for three reasons:

  1. He didn’t want to negatively impact the ability to tax new growth.
  2. The County wouldn’t be able to raise taxes by the increase in the Consumer Price Index.
  3. He wanted to maximize the amount of money that could be returned to taxpayers over the next three years.

[Skala did make one comment that didn’t make sense to me.  He said if the new growth were not taxed, it would increase the tax burden on current taxpayers.  It seems to me that, if the same amount of money were collected in year two as in year one, year one’s taxpayers would pay less, not more, because there would be more assessed valuation to bear the burden in year two.]\

Austin continued to try to convince Board members that Valley Hi was in financial danger.

“We wouldn’t be adding to the reserve so that reserve will be eaten up pretty quick,” he said.

Wheeler said his conversations with taxpayers led him to believe they had “clearly spoken.”

Their opinion is that they “are being taxed to death in McHenry County.

“The elderly are being taxed out of their homes.”

He said he had talked to people in other parts of Illinois.

“They’ve never heard of a project that had a $40 million reserve.”

Wheeler suggested if things didn’t work out the Board could take it to the voters.

“I think the time has come to ask the taxpayers if they want to continue to support [Valley Hi] with tax dollars.

Andrew Gasser chided other local governments–all non-partisan in nature–for raising taxes.

He pointed to the Cary Park District, the Village of Algonquin, the Fox River Grove Grade School District and Crystal Lake High School District 155.

Toward the end of the debate, newly-sworn in member Jeff Throsen had this to say:

“I think we have an opportunity to provide relief.

“We’re sitting on $40 million.

“I want to vote.”

Missing from the meeting were Tina Hill and Bob Nowak.

John Hammerand said, “She was in the parking lot.”

Hammerand, by the way, said he voted for the budget for the first time in 16 years of serving on the County Board.

He was the first one to tell me that the County was continuing to collect taxes after the Valley Hi bond issue was paid off.

= = = = =
Read about how Mike Walkup started the discussion to cut the Valley Hi levy in the Finance Committee in Part 1 and Part 2.

During the public comment period I told the Board that they were going to lose the tax protest suit that was recently filed. I told them while I was County Treasurer in the late 1960’s, I had written refund checks in similar cases.

On their desks, I placed copies of the part of Tim Dwyer’s tax protest suit that pertained to County government, plus Steve Willson’s critique of the financial projections concerning Valley Hi.


County Eliminates $3 Million Valley Hi Tax — 23 Comments

  1. Nice job Cal…Proactive Tax Fighter.

    Thanks to Steve Wilson too.

    Fact is, citizen’s must get involved AND “Lay the evidence of what they want changed out on the table so there can be no further skirting the truth, and like Jeff Thorsen so correctly stated,

    “We’re sitting on $40 million.
    I want to vote.”

    Where I come from, this translates into, “Git R’ Done!!”

    Thank you.

  2. Great job on putting this together Cal!

    The time has come to replace Peter Austin.

    “Austin continued to try to convince Board members that Valley Hi was in financial danger.”

    I am fed up with public sector employees running government!

    Glad to see the political games of Skala fail!

    Congratulations to the rest of the Board.

    Want businesses to move to McHenry County?

    Sell Valley Hi and have a referendum to repeal the 708 Board tax.

  3. Well done, County Board!

    I have often commented when I thought you were taking misguided actions.

    I would be a hypocrite if I did not congratulate you when you do the right thing.

    So, once again:

    well done to all of you who were there for the vote.

  4. I think it is great that the VH levy was eliminated this year due to the surplus.

    I am very confused why the huge attack on county government and townships in regards to over taxing.

    Have you read your tax bill?

    I think you may be barking up the wrong tree.

    Maybe it’s because of people like Ersel Schuster with her uninformed plan to lower taxes, which won’t really give homeowners much relief.

    I know on MY tax bill about $500 goes to county government, another couple hundred to MCC, and 65% (over $4,000) goes to the SCHOOL DISTRICT!!!!

    Let’s think twice about the unknown consequences of trying to eliminate all county programs.

    Do your research instead of just getting your education from this blog.

  5. Ok, so common sense prevails.

    Now how about taking a further leap?

    Instead of blathering on about this $40 M and what to do with it.

    How about buying some Muni Bond Fund?

    Let some other dopes, who passed referendums to build some Public Sector palaces, foot our annual Valley High budget.

    You just need a 3% return after fee’s.

    Dollars strong, the fed is going nowhere and lots of foreign bucks coming in, maybe buy that Fidelity Total Bond.

    Where’s our Blog Bond guy, Wilson his name?

    Pay him to find the right mix and at least get one of the hundred taxing jackals in this County, off the taxpayer carcass.

  6. Wow, some of the people actually used their brains.

    With LOTS of encouragement that is…. and articles like Cal’s and work of people rocking the boat.

    Gee – they even looked at if what was needed or wanted years ago was still needed now.

    What a concept.

  7. So TINA HILL was ABSENT in the parking lot AGAIN, when an important vote took place.

    Consolidation being on the ballot for voters to decide, and now this!

    This is why she has no place in public office.

  8. I guess its more important to Tina to protect political career than to actually do the work for the people. Sad.

  9. Way to go County Board!

    It’s a start, show them how it’s done.

    You work for the tax payers.

  10. 1. Thanks for your reporting of this issue and for speaking in public comments the last several times on this issue.

    2. What you reported is what I heard last night which is opposite of what was printed on the front page of the Herald. They reported that the Board chose not to lower the levy but to abate it for one year. I heard, as you did, that Mike Skala wanted to abate it for a year and Nick Provenzano amended Skala’s motion by cutting the levy to $0 for 1 year (they did not abate it). Thank you Nick. Thank’s also to Ms. Barnes comments regarding the process that took place last night.

    3. Now the next step is how to deal with the 2-3 year carry-back roller coaster next year. This law needs to be changed or else we can never really lower taxes – at least in the way it was explained last night.

    4. Thank you Count Board for your vote last night.

    5. Last comment – I am getting tired of Board Members saying they are giving $3M back to the voters. No, you folks need to understand that we are being over levied – so what you did last night was you did not continue to illegally appropriate (read embezzle) funds again from the public for Valley Hi.

  11. Riiight!

    Good going everyone EXCEPT Tina Hill and the Democrat Bob Nowack.

    Don’t know where Bob was, but Tina Hill made a b-line for the parking lot.

    What does that tell you, People!?

  12. It took a candidate for County Board, small engaged public, this terrific blog and a lawsuit to stop this section of the runaway gravy train in McHenry County.

    Lesson, it McHenry County it takes an engaged citizenry to do the job for our incompetent politicians to even make a case for this low hanging fruit.

    I still maintain, all on the Board who were in charge of oversight on Valley Hi these past 10 years or so should resign with an apology to those taxpayers who overpaid on their real esate taxes.

    Not only did they fail to deal with this issue, they did not even know the issue existed.

    Now, serious discussion by Board needs to take place concerning future of Valley Hi especially in light of Board member Michael Walkup’s recent comment on this blog that given change in market place for elderly care, the future demand for Valley Hi is bearish.

  13. This needs to be repeated from an earlier comment.

    Add on to make sure the same people don’t get elected to anything ever, ever again.

    “I still maintain, all on the Board who were in charge of oversight on Valley Hi these past 10 years or so should resign with an apology to those taxpayers who overpaid on their real esate taxes.

    “Not only did they fail to deal with this issue, they did not even know the issue existed.”

  14. So when you say resign you mean nick Provenzano Tina Hill MARY McCann John Hammerand Bob Nowack Anne May Miller Donna Kurtz Yvonne Barnes Carolyn Schofield Sue Draftkorn John Jung Bob Marten Diane Evertsen Michael Walkup because they have all been on board close to three years and have done nothing some over 10 years

  15. The grade school and high school districts in Crystal Lake were sued, as was the grade school district in Wonder Lake.

    Look back a couple of days and you will be able to find the articles.

  16. Stand4truth on:

    I say resign. I am not concerned with “names” or “who might be offended” from which political side of petty McHenry County politics (Joe Walsh Team v. Miller Time Team) as I am with the level of demonstrated incompetence by elected officials.

    I am a taxpayer damn it and I am fed up with the stupidity!

    This is inexcusable and only came to light when one candidate for the Board in District 1 during the last election in the debate mentioned the Multi-Million Dollar liquid account at Valley Hi.

    He said, maybe consideration should be given by the Board to taken this enterprise private.

    You would have though he wanted to throw “granny” over the cliff given the reaction by everyother candidate on that stage.

    He wanted to throw the Board over the cliff . . .

    It was this blog and Cal who continued to bring this issue to light of day otherwise this Board would have approved yet another 6 Million Dollar levy for 2016 not knowing about the 40 Million already on hand.


    For an unprepared candidate maybe forgivable; but for an incumbant, C’Mon Man . . .


  17. Hammerand is the one who told me about Valley Hi’s levying without having a need, as I pointed out in the article.

    This is the first budget he has voted for in over a decade.

  18. …and this is why you lost David Stieper.

    While I agree with you that you and Jon Knight brought up the Valley Hi “Gravy Train”, you two are also the most arrogant, unlikable people the party tried to bring into the fold.

    Many board members have been pushing for this both publicly and privately.

    You have had members like Walkup, Wheeler, Hammerand, and Evertsen doing their very best to make this public.

    You have had other, well respected county board members, who privately asked the right questions to staff to bring things forward.

    It was a team effort between board members and a few others.

    As for the Joe Walsh Team v Miller Time Team, this is not only wrong, but dead wrong.

    Have you even bothered to really look at what is going on under Sandy Salgado?

    You have everyone from tea party folks, libertarians, pro-life, pro-choice, and #2A folks all getting on board.

    They are not just Joe Walsh people and for some to think that Joe is the mastermind behind this is foolish… although if you want to believe the rumors it started in McHenry at a Starbucks with Joe.

    This is inexcusable for you to think that you and you alone are the reason we are where we are today.

    Good on all the county board members who made speeches about this. Provenzano, Barnes, Wheeler, Walkup, and Gasser.

    They all did their homework and attacked the levy problem from different points of view.

    The cumulative effect was a victory for the McHenry County Taxpayer and there is enough credit and glory to go around… unless you want it all Stieper.

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