By KAREN LONG
Legislation born from a recent District 158 referendum would change how taxing bodies ask for tax-rate increases.
House Bill 3602, introduced Feb. 24 by state Rep. Michael Tryon, R-Crystal Lake, would require that tax-rate increases be applied to the taxing body's aggregate rate of all funds, not a single fund as the current law allows.
The bill could be called for discussion by the House Revenue Committee on Thursday. Tryon created the bill in the wake of confusion with Huntley School District 158's 55-cent property-tax-rate increase.
After the November election and approval of a 55-cent tax-rate increase, District 158 officials learned that tax caps had eroded the district's education-fund tax rate from $3.45 to $2.78 per $100 of assessed valuation, and the district is allowed to apply the increase to the $3.45 rate. That would result in a tax-rate increase of $1.22, which would make the fund's maximum $4.
"It's not just a problem in [District] 158," Tryon said, adding that a DuPage County legislator has signed on as a co-sponsor.
If the bill is passed, referendums will ask for tax-rate increases on overall rates. Tryon said taxing bodies also would have one year to collect the increases; they have five years to reach the maximum rate increase now.
Don Englert, McHenry County regional superintendent of schools, said the requirement of "simple, straightforward English" would help voters understand ballot questions.
"It would require that the increase in rate would be applied in a way that's understandable to someone hearing about it or reading it on the ballot," he said. "I applaud [Tryon]. He's on the right track."
District 158 President Mike Skala had not seen the bill but said he agreed with the concept of making referendums easier to understand.
"I would wholeheartedly support anything to help clarify the law," he said.
McHenry County Clerk Katherine Schultz said discussion of the bill was just starting.
"It's a fresh idea," she said. "We're really at the preliminary stages."