Softening the Image of Tax Hike Goal of Conservation District

When I discussed the impact of Senate Bill 3341 with one its sponsors, I was told that out tax bill would not go up if more non-referendum bonds were issued pursuant to the legislation now awaiting signature on Govenror Pat Quinn’s desk.

I replied that our taxes would decrease if existing bonds were repaid and new borrowing was not allowed.

Issuing new bonds would be result in tax increases for all McHenry County property owners.

Now comes the Northwest Herald’s Sunday paper with the headline

MCCD looks to diversify revenue

Financial scare gave it motivation to seek new funding ideas

The primary “new funding” idea was to raise taxes.

This article is top right on the Northwest Herald's front page Sunday.

This article is top right on the Northwest Herald’s front page Sunday.

The Conservation District asked state legislators for permission to ask voters to allow it to increase its operating tax rate by 50%.  (See what last year’s MCCD tax rates for operating purposes and repayment of bonds here.)

That was Senate Bill 3342.  It passed the State Senate under the sponsorship of Pam Althoff and Karen McConnaughay.  State Rep. Mike Tryon assumed House sponsorship, but did not call it for a vote.

A second bill, Senate Bill 3341, under the same sponsorship, proposed allowing the Conservation District to sell non-referendum bonds as old ones were repaid.

It handily passed the Senate, but was held up in the House this spring by Tryon.

Then, after the November election during the veto session, Tryon brought the non-referendum bond bill forward and passed it with McHenry County colleague Barb Wheeler’s help.

The Northwest Herald article emphasizes other much more minor ways to increase revenue, but does not even mention its big legislative push to hike real estate taxes.

The article does mention the McHenry County Conservation Foundation.

That not-for-profit organization received $1 million that should have gone into the MCCD’s coffers when Lakehead Pipeline Company paid the District big money to cross its property near Marengo.

(If you don’t know anything about this transaction, you should.  Please read the article you can find here.)

Instead of all the money going under taxpayer control, the District’s then board agreed to divert the final $1 million to an organization that wasn’t even organized.  It ended up being run by former MCCD Trustees.

That Foundation used money earned investing that $1 million to finance two bond issue campaigns.

If MCCD is in financial dire straits, perhaps it should ask for that $1 million.

Also not made clear in the article is that the Conservation District has a tax limit which it has reached.

That’s 10 cents per hundred dollars of assessed valuation.

If assessed valuation decreases, as it has, so will the maximum amount of revenue it can pry out of homeowners’ pockets.

Compare the District’s situation with that of a person whose salary has been cut.  You still have a job, just have to live on less money.

What happens?

You adjust.

MCCD Executive Director Elizabeth is quoted as saying, “I think we’ve done well in operating lean and conservatively.”

The final thought that sprung to mind upon reading the article was how much the total tax take of the Conservation District has increased over the last ten years.

Take a look:


More financial information can be found in this article.

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If you would like to tell Governor Pat Quinn whether he should sign or veto Senate Bill 3341, here are two ways to contact him.  Email Quinn at

Or call 1-312-814-2121.


Softening the Image of Tax Hike Goal of Conservation District — 4 Comments

  1. MCCD Executive Director Elizabeth is quoted as saying, “I think we’ve done well in operating lean and conservatively.”

    MCB published a table recently showing that, per capita, MCCD spends twice as much as the average conservation/forest preserve district, and four times as much as Kane, Kendall and DeKalb counties.

    That is not my definition of “fiscal conservatism”.

  2. And all along I thought althoff and tryon were for the taxpayers.

    I couldn’t be more wrong.

  3. “Diversify revenue”.

    That’s a new one.

    We may have to add it to The Voters’ Guide to Political Terms:

    Diversify revenue: raise fees

  4. I thought this quote from the article, while seemingly innocuous, actually downplays something very significant: “The Board of Trustees has OK’d a series of staff recommendations designed to update current policies and diversify the district’s revenue streams, Executive Director Elizabeth Kessler said.”

    One of the “policies” approved at the 12/18 meeting was item 9.6 in the consent agenda. “Second Reading and Motion to pass Ordinance #14-896 establishing Finance Policy #400.27 – Disclosure Policy.”

    On its face it seems rather mundane.

    This item was rushed through and only first appeared at the 11/20 Finance Committee as agenda item #10.4.

    This item addresses the district’s on-going legal reporting requirements under SEC/IRS guidelines to meet certain financial disclosures on the district’s outstanding debt.

    Someone might want to FOIA all communications received/sent by district personnel in the last 7 months from the district’s bond counsel, Chapman & Cutler, and its underwriter, BMO Capital, regarding the district’s historical compliance (or lack thereof) with SEC disclosure requirements on its outstanding debt securities.

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