County Board Set to Encourage McHenry County Conservation District Tax Hikes Tuesday

My computer has been out of action while bills under the sponsorship of State Senators Pam Althoff and Karen McConnaughay have worked their way to the Senate floor.

The McHenry County Board will vote Tuesday morning on supporting two bills to allow the McHenry County Conservation District to raise our taxes.

Senate Bill 3341

McHenry County Conservation Land Acquisition from 1980-2011.

McHenry County Conservation Land Acquisition from 1980-2011.

would “increase its maximum debt limit from .575% to 1.725% through voter approved referendum.” [There is no mention of how much that would cost in total or per household, which seems to me something I would want to know before supporting the measure. Mention is made of “a (referendum and non-referendum) stacking issue.”

Having gone toe-to-toe with Conservation District Board members in the mid-1990’s over their selling bonds without a referendum, I believe that any impediment to the issuance of non-referendum bonds is a good idea.

Passage of this bill would allow the sale of non-referendum bonds again, as I read the resolution.

Rest assured, the roll call will be published…repeatedly.

Senate Bill 3342

would address the problem of  the McHenry County Conservation District’s butting up against the Property Tax Cap. The resolution says the district will “lose an estimated $2 million dollars,” if the General Assembly does not ride to the rescue.

The MCCD has authority to levy 10 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, as I read the resolution.

Earlier I thought the increase would only be 25%, but I see it’s now 50%.

The following seems to be the operative language in the bill now (the new language in underlined):

6         (4) 0.15%, in lieu of the two rates specified in (1)
7     and (2) above, and in lieu of (3) above, for the general
8     purposes of a district located wholly within McHenry
9     County, including the acquisition, development, operation
10     and maintenance of real property which may be in excess of
11     current requirements and allowed to accumulate from year to
12     year, and for any purposes specified by the district;
13     however, no tax may be extended at a rate that will result
14     in accumulation of any amount representing more than 0.325%
15     of the equalized assessed valuation of the district.
16     Except as provided in some other Act, a district may not
17 levy annual taxes, for all its purposes in the aggregate, in
18 excess of 0.1% of the value, or 0.15% of the value for a
19 district located wholly within McHenry County,

When I talked to Senator Althoff the day before the bill moved out of committee, she assured me that a referendum approval would be required because we are a county under the Real Estate Tax Cap.

That did not mollify me.


Don’t I believe in following the voters wishes?

Sure, but there is something very special about the financing of Conservation District tax hike referendums.

The bulk of the money comes from the McHenry County Conservation Foundation.

What you see below does not seem to include all the money from the 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that I remember being spent, but it certainly is enough to make my point.

Contributed By Amount Received By
McHenry County Conservation Foundation
P.O. Box 1108
Woodstock, IL 60098-1108
Loan Received
McHenry County Citizens for Clean Water and Open Space
McHenry County Conservation Foundation
P.O. Box 1108
Woodstock, IL 60098-1108
Loan Received
McHenry County Citizens for Clean Water and Open Space
McHenry County Conservation Foundation
P.O. Box 1108
Woodstock, IL 60098-1108
In-Kind Contribution
McHenry County Citizens for Clean Water and Open Space
McHenry County Conservation Foundation
PO Box 1108
Woodstock, IL 60098
Individual Contribution
McHenry County Citizens for Clean Water & Open Space
McHenry County Conservation Foundation
PO Box 1108
Woodstock, IL 60098
Individual Contribution
McHenry County Citizens for Clean Water & Open Space

When I discovered these campaign contributions, I was incensed.


The money came from a settlement with Lakehead Pipeline for an easement through about a hundred feet of Conservation District land.

Below you will see an article I published on June 22, 2009.  The links no longer work, but reading it will fill you in on the details:

Money That Should Have Been MCCD’s Used to Finance 2007 $73 Million, 27% Tax Hike Campaign

The McHenry County Conservation Foundation sounds all warm and fuzzy until you figure out that the Conservation Board set it up specifically to keep $1 million paid by Lakehead Pipeline out of MCCD’s coffers.

Out of the control of public officials and into the hands of ex-Conservation District leaders.

Read the whole sordid tale here, as well as how that Foundation spent $137,000 to pass a $73 million bond issue in 2001.

You might find of interest a statement by a local Republican leader asserting that raising taxes helps taxpayers.

In retrospect, it sounds a lot like Pat Quinn this spring.

For the 2007 $73 million bond issue, the Foundation only kicked in $63,000.

At least that’s what its captive campaign committee—the McHenry County Citizens for Clean Water & Open Space—reported to the Illinois State Board of Elections.

I guess the $24,000 of polling in the month before the election showed there was not a need to spend as much money that time around.

The mailings were financed over 95% by tax free money that should have been in the McHenry County Conservation District’s treasury where it could not have been spent to pass a bond issue.

You can read who lent their names, but, with few exceptions, not their money to passing the MCCD’s 27% property tax hike here.

Other people’s money is the best money, right.

Here are the mailings I snagged. (I may have missed some because they took me off their mailing list.)

McHenry County Conservation Foundation Hides Its Payment of Tax Hike MailingProtecting Open Space

That’s the end of the 2009 article.

Looking at the Foundation’s web site, I see the following:

“in 2001 and again in 2007, we ran two successful Open Space Bond Referendums, ultimately providing $141.5 million in funds to purchase open space and manage it for the public benefit.” 

Who runs the Foundation, you might ask?

Can’t tell you that in the short time I have to write this article because they are not listed on the Foundation’s web site, but the officers of the now inactive campaign committee which spent the money to raise our taxes in 2001 and 2007 follow:

Name Title Address
Pam Althoff Chairman 3107 Judy Ln
McHenry, IL 60050
Robert Bartlett Chairman 1163 N Shore Dr
Crystal Lake, IL 60014
Christine Slattery Chairman c/o TPL
53 W Jackson Blvd, Suite 1663
Chicago, Il 60604
Ken Koehler Treasurer 320 Douglas AveCrystal Lake, IL 60014

Let’s assume the two bills pass the Illinois General Assembly and are signed by Governor Pat Quinn.

Based on experience, what can taxpayers expect?

If there is opposition, (and, given the economy and the realization that McHenry County ranks in the top 30 highest property taxed counties in the entire country, there will be), taxpayers can expect to see up to four glossy campaign pamphlets, most directly from the Foundation “informing” us what a wonderful thing open space is.

Then there will be one or two from a campaign committee telling us to “Vote Yes!”

My view is that the Foundation will be using money, most of which should have been in the coffers of the McHenry County Conservation District all along, to convince us to raise our taxes.

Of course, the Conservation District is prohibited by law from doing so.

Where the MCCD owns land can be seen below:

McHenry County Conservation District land as of March, 2014,

McHenry County Conservation District land as of March, 2014,

County Board members’ email addresses can be found here.


County Board Set to Encourage McHenry County Conservation District Tax Hikes Tuesday — 13 Comments

  1. Hey, I was wondering if the Hackmatack Wildlife Refuge is one of the contributors to this recent development about MCCD wanting more money.

    I know it’s federal land, but I was wondering if McHenry County taxpayers would be on the hook for a portion of its maintenance.

  2. How in the world can Pam althoff push this on county taxpayers when she is against Quinn’s raising taxes?

    Does she even know her constituents’ situations struggling to make ends meet to pay our already overinflated tax bills as the value of our properties are plummeting?


  3. Should you call Althoff she will likely tell you that this is not a bill to increase the tax, it is a bill to allow the voters to vote on a higher tax rate for their Conservation District.

    They are likely counting on the stupidity of McHenry County voters who just approved an increase in County operating expense by approving the addition of a County Board Chairman elected at large.

    In addition to the increased operating expense, you will likely see a campaign cost in the range of $500,000.

    The majority of that campaign money may come from tax payers in the form of union dues paid to public sector unions and dues paid into private sector unions working on government contracts.

  4. Numbers, IF you get ahold of her!

    She’s stupid for even putting this on the table and needs to be called out on it.

    Very disturbing.

    Time for taxpayers to wake up out of their deep sleep & vote this down.

  5. No kidding, Numbers.

    I am thoroughly disgusted with the abject stupidity of the voters.

  6. In Kane County it appears that Karen McConnaughay will run uncontested this fall.

    She is the co-sponsor of the bills referenced.

    Nothing will change politically if we do not get more conservatives to run for office.

    It is scheduled for the third reading today in the Senate –

    No not an April Fool’s joke but a sick joke on the taxpayers -.

    SB3342 had an amendment filed yesterday by Althoff but the details are not yet posted.

  7. Does anyone know the total public debt of McHenry County?

    That is, the total debt of County, School Districts, McHenry County College, Conservation District, Libraries, Fire, and any other bodies with the power to tax and to each incur debt up to the 2.87% of assessed property value per Illinois statutes?

    The reason this number might be compelling: if homeowners in the county were aware of personal implications of these referendums (or bond issues bypassing referendums), they might show up to vote in greater numbers and cast votes swayed by knowledge of facts rather than propaganda mailings.

    That is, homeowners might vote quite differently if they understand that a significant portion of their home is pledged as collateral for debt, rather than being only made aware that it will ‘only raise their taxes a few (hundred) dollars a year’.

  8. Your links on the mailing don’t work. Comes up with “No such page”.

  9. Re Althoff, Wheeler, Tryon, McConnaughay — always running unopposed.

    We need a choice.

    That’s why there needs to be a cleaning out of the Republican RINO party of the good ole’ boys.

    Interesting that the Republican party’s #1 focus is their numerous fundraisers.

    For what?

    They are running unopposed, what do they need to fund raise for?

    We need some new blood here in McHenry County.

  10. I mentioned that in the article.

    When Google was hosting the blog, they disappeared.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *