A press release from McHenry County Board member John Reinert:
Reinert: Alternatives to McHenry High School Board’s Tax Hike Proposal Unexplored
CRYSTAL LAKE – McHenry County Board member John Reinert is urging voters in McHenry High School District 156 to reject a referendum to borrow $44 million to make major changes to its East and West campuses.
Reinert said the price tag is far too steep for a school district that, like many others in McHenry County, is experiencing declining enrollment.
He also said the District 156 Board of Education needs to explore other options before asking the public for such a large sum.
“McHenry County residents have one of the highest property tax burdens in the nation, and they live in the state with the highest overall tax burden, according to WalletHub,” Reinert, R-Crystal Lake, said.
“While I wholeheartedly support public education and the wonderful job that teachers do, McHenry County is losing population for the first time in its history, and property taxes are a major driver in the ongoing exodus.”
The district’s plans include expanding West Campus and building a Science, Technology and Industry Center on site, as well as renovating East Campus classrooms with the ultimate plan of sending freshmen to East, and sophomores, juniors and seniors to West.
Reinert said District 156 needs to consider every option before resorting to asking for more money, including outside-the-box solutions.
If space is a problem at East and West, Reinert said, District 156 could start a dialogue with Crystal Lake-based High School District 155 about shifting their common boundary north to send more students to District 155 schools, many of which are below capacity.
Such a move would require the approval of both districts and the Regional Board of School Trustees.
“The McHenry County Board has been leading the charge on tax reduction.
Over the past two years, we’ve decreased our levy by $18 million.
As Vice-Chairman of the Planning, Environment and Development Committee, I helped eliminate the county’s school developer impact fees for the next two years, and reduced a number of zoning fees to spur both residential and commercial growth. Other governments need to be following our example, not spending more,” Reinert said.
While referendum supporters have maintained that borrowing the money will not result in a tax increase, Reinert pointed out that the proposed borrowing will replace bonds that are set to retire next year, meaning taxes will decrease if the referendum fails.
“It’s been said that nothing in Illinois is more permanent than a temporary tax.
“All too often, school districts asking for tax increases for capital projects have no intention of letting them sunset as promised.
“When the time to retire the bonds comes, school boards ask voters to renew them under the guise that the new borrowing won’t raise taxes – they just neglect to mention that taxes would otherwise be set to decrease.
“Voters in McHenry County should be well aware when they step into the ballot box that once they approve a tax increase referendum, they’re stuck with it forever.”