Excuse me for being skeptical of a resolution propose to the Law and Government/Liquor Committee at the end of June, but I smell another front page story in the Northwest Herald patting McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks on the back.
The title of the resolution is
RESOLUTION IMPLORING LOCAL GOVERNMENTS TO KEEP FLAT OR LOWER THEIR TAX LEVIES.
It has clauses that say, among other things,
WHEREAS, government should not ask for more when the people they serve have less, especially during a national emergency; and
WHEREAS, County government’s past requests for other local governments to follow its example on tax relief taxes take on new urgency during this national emergency.
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, by this County Board of McHenry County, Illinois, that all McHenry County taxing bodies – school districts, municipalities, townships, and special-purpose districts – aggressively pursue cost savings and increased efficiencies so they can reduce their tax levies and fees; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that if lowering the levy is not possible, that taxing bodies hold their levies flat and reject any automatic inflationary increase they are entitled to under the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL, aka the “tax cap”); and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the County Clerk is hereby authorized to distribute a certified copy of this resolution to the County Board Chairman, Treasurer, the Director of Finance, and the County Administrator.
Before I go further, note that the resolution is not even going to be sent to each district that extracts property taxes from McHenry County real estate owners.
So, the only way local governments will be implored to keep their levies flat or constant would be through the NWHerald.
The quote in the headline comes from the opening remarks of Crystal Lake Board member Jeff Thorsen.
“I really do appreciate the sentiment,” he said.
“But I want to make sure our house is in order before we tell anyone else where they should stand.”
Thorsen said he had discussed this “with the Chairman.”
County Administrator Peter Austin admitted, “The timing on this could be better because there is so much uncertainty on the horizon.”
While admitting Board members would like “to keep your levy flat for a fourth year,” Austin said he didn’t “know if that’s where we’re going and I don’t pretend to speak for local governments.”
Committee Chairman Robert Nowak pointed out it was “hard all around.
“I guess we have to make it work for the next couple of years.”
“We do have that responsibility with our own tax levy. We have to be able to deliver that to our constituents in such a way to keep it flat or to lower it and we don’t know if we can do that.
“So, to turn around and ask all the other municipalities to follow a lead that we may not be able to follow is at the very least hypocrisy.
“And, we need to be very careful not to be caught in that trap.
“And right now the timing is kind of not good because it will be guaranteed you it will be the subject of political propagand.
“We are in the middle of an election cycle and the levy cycle is in November/December.
“If we are going to pass a resolution on that [we] should know where stand.
“I would recommend we hold off until levy time.”
Thorsen argued that the resolution was about “posturing” which “half the people won’t hear us and the other half might forget by levy time.
“We need to encourage our residents to go to those levy hearings to represent themselves in each and everyone of those taxing bodies.”
Continuing, Thorsen argued that the County Board should not appear to be “holier than thou,” that to call on other tax districts to cut their levies or hold the line would be inappropriate if McHenry County ended up raising its levy.
It that happened, the Board members would be “hypocrites.”
Tom Wilbeck agreed.
“Let’s wait until we see where the budget process goes.”
Thorsen returned to the political nature of the resolution,
“Believe me, the timing on this is definitely going to be political,” referring to “the political craziness season we’re going to be in.”
Wilbeck moved to table the resolution “until after we see the budget.
“Does that sound fair, Peter?”
Austin mentioned two factors–“our own budget time table” and “what’s happening around us.”
“Let’s see where we stand before we tell everybody where they should stand,” Thorsen said.
“You can quote me on that,” he said to chuckles from Wilbeck, who was sitting next to him.
Chairman Nowak agreed, “I don’t want to make it political. It’s my preference to wait until November.”
Thorsen referred to Board member Jim Kearns’ talking of the need for budget “sustainability.”
“We need to make sure there’s money for services.”
Austin revealed that several minor funds will have to be increase:
the TB Fund, the Veterans Assistance Commission and the Mental Health Board.
Other levies would take money from other parts of the budget.
“From a timing perspective, October is better than September.”
“I’m really struggling with this,” Democrat Kelli Wegener interjected.
“I know we still need them [taxes, but] I see how real estate taxes are hurting people.
“I have friends who are having trouble paying their property taxes because they are out of a job.
“But, yet I also see we don’t want to cur any services, especially social services and mental health services.”
“Remember, we’re not talking about our budget here,” Thorsen commented.
“I understand that,” Nowak replied.
“I don’t think there’s any demand that the levy remain flat.”
Tom Wilbeck noted, “We have sent the word out [by the county’s cutting its levy] and nobody is listening.
Reiterating his argument, Thorsen said, “If we’re going to suggest how others should do their business, let’s at least make sure we can do it ourselves.”
“In this environment, I don’t think anybody will be able to lower their tax levy. So, I would like to see that changed,” Wegener concluded.
The delay was passed on a voice vote.