The Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce held its first Town Hall meeting Thursday morning.
It was the usual time for such meetings, set so business people can attend before business hours.
This time the public was allowed to come. There was plenty of room.
Representatives from local governments faced Chamber members and the public.
City Librarian Kathryn Martens said something that caught my attention.
“Each of us taxing bodies have different service areas.”
Not, that seems elementary to me, but it obviously is not to newcomers and probably a good number of long-time residents.
She pointed out that the Crystal Lake Library does not serve the greater Crystal Lake area as the Park District does.
It serves only the residents of Crystal Lake, although Crystal Lake businesses are eligible for a library card.
Library Board President Terri Reece gave a comprehensive outline of services the Library provides, which I have asked her to forward for a future article.
The one that jumped out at me was a course in Excel that Giorgio’s requested and was provided.
Representatives of both School District 47 and 155 explained how their students were doing much better than average.
District 155 Board President Ted Wagner, for instance, pointed out that two of the four high schools are ranked among the top 500 of the country’s 21,000 high schools.
“Our kids are getting into the top schools.
“We’ve been in the paper lately,” he added.
“Are we perfect? No.”
“About as close to balanced as it possible,” he observed.
Thomas said that the high school district is “one of the stronger districts in the State of Illinois.”
96% of the Crystal Lake High School District’s student graduate and 93% go on to higher education.
McHenry County Board Chairman Joe Gottemoller pointed out that over the last three years $10 million was left in people’s pockets because the Board did not take the extra taxes that the Property Tax Cap allows.
Reducing the work force by 170 employees was part of the reason that was possible, he said.
After brief introductory remarks, questions took up the next fifty or so minutes.
Elementary School District 47 Superintendent Kathy Hinz characterized the goal as creating problem solvers, team members.
It was pointed out that math and English scores were up.
“We are always looking at new ways to use the tax dollars [productively].
Gottemoller explained County services and described the courts as “problem solvers.”
He mentioned that the budget was about $30 million less than it was three years ago. This year the total budget is about $211 million.
[Checking the numbers, Gottemoller found he exaggerated the cut. The 2012 county budget was $256 million. In 2016 (this year) it’s $233 million. The math shows about a $23 million decrease.]
Executive Director Jason Herbster pointed out that the Park District amounts to just under 5% of the tax dollar.
Two years ago, he said, the Board kept the levy flat.
The budget is now comprised of about 50% from property taxes and 50% from user fees.
Herbster told the audience that the Board’s goal was to move toward having 60-70% of the revenue come from user fees.
James Richter, Assistant Director of Community Economic Development, represented Crystal Lake.
He said that the City had one of the lowest property tax rates (Lakewood’s is lower since the golf course bonds were paid off). The city’s share is about 10% of the total bill.
A question was asked concerning declining school enrollments and when that would translate into lower school taxes.
Thomas pointed out that budgets are decreasing, but not as fast as student population.
District 47 Board President Jeff Mason talked of bringing back special education students from SEDOM to local schools.
= = = = =
Tomorrow, the answer to this question:
“From 2009 through 2012, Countywide Equalized Assessed Valuation (EAV) dropped from $10.4 Billion to $7.9 Billion, a 24% decrease.
“Meanwhile, levies increased from $752 Million to $797 Million, or 6%.
“This caused the aggregate tax rate to climb from 7.2% to 10.08%, almost 40%.
“As values begin to return, is there any coordinated effort to hold or reduce levies among taxing bodies so the rate drops faster and people start to feel some relief?”
Saturday, the biggest misconceptions and things governmental officials wish people knew.