McHenry Co. Board OKs $166K for economic development

WOODSTOCK – The McHenry County Board likely will carry its hefty subsidy of the McHenry County Economic Development Corp. into future years, to the dismay of those who annually question it.

Board members Tuesday voted, 19-5, to approve a contract that supplies about 45 percent of the EDC’s funding to advertise and grow the county’s economic and jobs base. The county will pay $166,000 in 2013, with the annual option to extend the contract at an increase of 5 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is smaller. The contract caps the county’s contribution so that it cannot exceed 45 percent of EDC funding.

A handful of opponents each year challenge why taxpayers pay almost half of EDC’s budget. Some want EDC functions done in house, while others, such as Randy Donley, R-Union, say the EDC, created in 1993, should be far more self-sufficient.

“I still insist that $150,000 [the approximate annual subsidy in previous years] was seed money, and not an annual allowance as it has become,” Donley said.

County taxpayers this year are paying just more than $166,000 to the EDC. The subsidy decreased in 2011 to $133,091, or about one-third of the EDC’s total budget, as board members grappled with lean budget numbers in a poor economy.

John Hammerand, R-Wonder Lake, questioned why the County Board has only two seats on the 18-member EDC board of directors when it provides almost half of the funding. He suggested having weighted votes or having 45 percent of the seats.

“I think this might encourage the EDC to become privately funded,” Hammerand said.

Supporters came to the EDC’s defense. Scott Breeden, R-Lakewood and the County Board’s liaison on the EDC board, called the subsidy “money well spent.” While the EDC’s positive impact cannot be concretely quantified, the effect of slashing its funding would be much more noticeable, he said.

“The lack of marketing comes to the fore rather quickly,” Breeden said.

Nick Provenzano, R-McHenry, argued that other counties that handle their own economic development pay significantly more than the county pays under its public-private partnership. Marc Munaretto, R-Algonquin, who has served as the County Board liaison, likewise said that having the county take up economic development would not yield better results.

“Have you ever seen a government enterprise get the job done well?” Munaretto asked.

The County Board is in the process of developing its 2013 budget, of which the EDC’s subsidy is a part.

What it means

The McHenry County Board on Tuesday voted, 19-5, to approve a funding contract for the McHenry County Economic Development Corp. The county will pay $165,000 in 2013, with the option of extending the contract year-by-year through 2016, with an annual increase of 5 percent or the rate of inflations, whichever is smaller.

Voting “no” were Ersel Schuster, R-Woodstock, Paula Yensen, D-Lake in the Hills, Randy Donley, R-Union, Diane Evertsen, R-Harvard, and John Hammerand, R-Wonder Lake.

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