NWH Headline Writers Need Remedial Math

Today the Northwest Herald reports the following tax levy action by the McHenry County Board:

“Last year’s budget included a $71.8 million property tax levy. The 2019 budget includes a $69.8 million levy.”

The internet headline for the article follows:

The headline says the tax levy was cut $9.8 million.

I don’t know about you, but when I subtract $69.8 million from $71.8 million, my answer is $2 million.

Here is the McHenry County Clerk’s tax levy posting for McHenry County’s tax levy last year:

The property tax levy for McHenry County was $71.8 million last year, according to official documents.


NWH Headline Writers Need Remedial Math — 10 Comments

  1. Either poor reporting by Little Eddie or intentional spin to make Jack Franks look good. The article attributes more than $7M to the abatement that Jack claimed was a tax cut.

  2. Fake News NWH editors and reporters needs remedial English, logic and ethic classes, besides math.

    The Herald’s screwing up headlines is a routine matter …. one time the NWH dopes made it to all 3 late night network comedy which aired the NWH losers’ stupidity for the nation: http://articles.latimes.com/1995-10-31/local/me-63161_1_fourth-estate


    One mistake that did achieve a certain public acclaim appeared last year in the Northwest Herald of Crystal Lake, Ill. The Correction of the Year for 1994 concerned a headline that ran above a story about the controversy over the Smithsonian Institution’s exhibit of the Enola Gay, the famed B-29 Superfortress that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945:

    Atomic Bombers Criticize Enola Homosexual Exhibit

  3. Even though the McHenry County Conservation District has a separate levy / extension from the County, it is a component unit of the McHenry County unit of government.

    The Conservation District’s levy / extension is thus not included in the $71.8M or $69.8M numbers.

    The Conservation District’s levy / extension is on page 4 of the “tax levy posting” link:


    That is the link to the McHenry County 2017 Tax Computation Report ALL found on the McHenry County Clerk’s Taxes website:



    The McHenry County Conservation District’s extension increased $156 from Tax Year 2016 to Tax Year 2017.

    To make that more meaningful to taxpayers, a property taxpayer’s proportionate share of “Tax Year 2017” appeared on their 2018 property tax bills.


    McHenry County Conservation District recent property tax history:

    Tax Year 2017 Extension: $19,508,031

    Tax Year 2016 Extension: $19,507,875

    Tax Year 2015 Extension: $19,572,804

    Tax Year 2014 Extension: $19,650,996

    Tax Year 2013 Extension: $19,713,015

    Tax Year 2012 Extension: $19,565,164



    Comparing McHenry County Conservation District Tax Year 2017 to 2016:

    $19,508,031 – $19,507,875 = $156.

    Thus the McHenry County Conservation District received $156 more in property taxes in 2018 (Tax Year 2017) compared to 2017 (Tax Year 2016).

    source: County Clerk Tax Computation Reports


    The Jack Franks bully pulpit does not seem to be working on the McHenry County Conservation District.

    The McHenry County Board Chair asks other property taxing districts to reduce their levy / extension, when he can’t even get the levy / extension of a component unit of county government (the Conservation District) reduced.

    An important point being that Jack Franks is the head elected official of McHenry County.

    Mr. Franks is thus the head elected official overseeing the McHenry County Conservation District, as the Conservation District trustees are appointed by the county, not elected by taxpayers.


    McHenry County Conservation District Board of Trustees

    “McHenry County Conservation District is governed by a board of seven trustees appointed by the Chairman of the County Board and with the consent of the County Board.

    Trustees serve a five-year term without compensation.”



    Difference between extension and levy:

    The extension is the amount of property taxes billed by the county to taxpayers.

    The levy is the request from the property taxing district to the county.

    Thus first comes the levy request, then comes the extension final number.

    The county sometimes adjusts the levy up or down, and thus the levy is not always the same as the extension.

    In fact it is common, for example, for school districts to “over levy” because at the time of the levy request to the county, the school district does not yet know the new growth EAV in its district.

    Many if not most school districts want the maximum amount of property taxes to which they are legally entitled to, and thus over levy to capture maximum new growth EAV.

    New growth EAV is outside the property tax cap.


    The County’s Budgets are posted here:



    The County fiscal year is December 1st through November 30th.

    So Fiscal Year 2019 (FY 2019) is December 1, 2018 – November 30, 2019.

    The county is thus near the end of FY18 right now.


    Another very important financial document is the Annual Financial Report (AFR) or the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR).

    The budget is the plan (forward looking).

    The AFR & CAFR is the results (historical figures).

    The McHenry County CAFR is on the McHenry County Treasurer’s website:



    The CAFR describes the relationship between the County and the Conservation District.

  4. Mark, I’m still confused. Are they cutting taxes by $9.8 million or $2.0 million next year? Are they going to levy $69.8 million and then abate another $7.8 million? If so, I’ll take it, even if it isn’t permanent.

  5. The McHenry County unit of government (the county itself) is cutting property taxes by almost $2 million in 2019 (Tax Year 2018 paid in 2019).


    The abatement is an intermediate step during the levy process.

    That becomes clear when looking at pdf page 6 in the FY 2019 Draft Budget (period covering December 1, 2018 – November 30, 2019).


    mchenrycountyil.gov > County Government > Departments A-I > Administration > Budgets / Finance

    $77,383,679 Original Levy

    $7,535,257 Abatement

    $69,848,422 Final Levy


    Now let’s compare this year (2018 Tax Year, payable in 2019) levy, to last years (2017 Tax Year, payable in 2018) extension.

    The county has not yet published the 2018 Tax Year (payable in 2019) extension.

    $71,839,960 Extension Tax Year 2017 (Paid in 2018)

    $69,848,422 Levy Tax Year 2018 (Paid in 2019)

    $01,991,538 Reduction in Levy for tax year 2018 (paid in 2019)


    The $69,848,422 Tax Year 2018 (paid in 2019) is the levy not the extension.

    The County could reduce the levy up or down during the extension process.

    Last year (Tax Year 2017, payable in 2018) there was a $350 hike from levy to extension during the extension process.


    Here’s a recent history of the McHenry County (the county unit of government) levy’s and extensions from the County Clerk website.

    Levy is used when extension was not available on the County Clerk website.

    2002 Tax Year (Received in 2003) – $44,911,601 levy.

    2003 Tax Year (Received in 2004) – $49,922,367 levy. 11.16% increase.

    2004 Tax Year (Received in 2005) – $56,677,134 levy. 13.53% increase.

    2005 Tax Year (Received in 2006) – $64,097,850 levy. 13.09% increase.

    2006 Tax Year (Received in 2007) – $66,273,418 extension. 3.39% increase.

    2007 Tax Year (Received in 2008) – $69,497,238 extension. 4.86% increase.

    2008 Tax Year (Received in 2009) – $73,587,785 extension. 5.89% increase.

    2009 Tax Year (Received in 2010) – $74,443,779 extension. 1.16% increase.

    2010 Tax Year (Received in 2011) – $76,846,500 extension. 3.23% increase.

    2011 Tax Year (Received in 2012) – $78,285,064 extension. 1.87% increase.

    2012 Tax Year (Received in 2013) – $78,535,191 extension. 0.32% increase.

    2013 Tax Year (Received in 2014) – $78,627,450 extension. 0.12% increase.

    2014 Tax Year (Received in 2015) – $78,966,290 extension. 0.43% increase.

    2015 Tax Year (Received in 2016) – $76,289,016 extension. 3.39% decrease.

    2016 Tax Year (Received in 2017) – $79,424,610 extension. 4.11% increase

    2017 Tax Year (Received in 2018) – $71,839,960 extension. 9.55% decrease.

    2018 Tax Year (Received in 2019) – $69,848,422 levy after abatement. 2.85% decrease.


    From the County’s perspective, the taxes are received (from the taxpayer).

    From the taxpayers perspective, the taxes are paid (to the county).


    The above figures do not include the Conservation District which has its own property tax levy and thus extension.

    The Conservation District is a component unit of McHenry County (the county unit of government).

  6. Mark, I’m so confused. I need a really simple answer. Did they cut the letter e $2000000 or 10 million dollars? If more than 2 million dollars, where is the other cut?

  7. I remember the Enola Gay headline, and it still makes me chuckle. Everyone I encountered talked about it for weeks. That one was of The Onion quality.

  8. The county cut the levy approximately $2 million.

    Precisely, $71,839,610 – $69,848,422 = $1,991,188.

  9. Here’s the simple explanation of the Tax Year 2018 property tax cut.

    $71,839,610 Tax Year 2017 Levy


    $69,848,422 Tax Year 2018 Levy


    $1,991,188 property tax cut.

    Thus the County plans to bill $1,991,188 less in property taxes in 2019 than it did in 2018.


    Here’s a high level overview of the levy, extension, and billing cycle:

    The Tax Year 2017 levy is billed as an extension in 2018.

    Similarly, the Tax Year 2018 levy is billed as an extension in 2019.

    The amount can change during the extension process.

    Some people don’t pay in full, so the county receives a bit less than it bills.



    Abatements are used to reduce this years levy while maintaining the ability to recoup some of that cut in future years.


    Here’s how the abatement math worked.

    $71,839,610 FY 2017 Levy (from the tax levy document in the blog post)


    $05,544,069 FY 2018 Levy Hike


    $77,383,679 FY 2018 Amount Levied (intermediate step not final levy)


    $07,535,257 FY 2018 Abatement


    $69,848,422 FY 2018 Amount to be Levied


    Reference pdf page 6 on that URL, which is currently to the FY 2019 Proposed Budget.


    The end result is the same.

    Once again, the county cut the levy $1,991,188 (almost $2M) in Tax Year 2018.

    The Northwest Herald and the county over sell the cut.

    Northwest Herald headline: “McHenry County Board adopts spending plan with $9.8M in tax cuts”


    McHenry County News release: “McHenry County Approves Almost $10 Million in Tax Savings in 2019 Budget”



    The Tax Year 2018 levy cut about $2M from the 2017 Levy.

    Not $9.8M.

    Not $10M.

    The 2018 levy is not $9.8M or $10M less than the 2017 Levy.


    Still not sure how the $2.3M permanent tax cut figure was calculated that appeared in the November 14, 2018 McHenry County news release.


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