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Our view: McHenry County government levy finally flat

The McHenry County Board last week approved a 2013 budget that projects it will spend $6 million less next fiscal year than it did in the fiscal year that is ending today.

As promised during the lead-up to the Nov. 6 General Election when all 24 County Board seats were up for election, the board also voted to freeze the county’s property-tax levy for the first time in more than a decade.

It’s about time. We expect the freeze will continue for years to come, or at least until home prices rebound.

As a result of its decision, the county anticipates it will collect $2.3 million less in tax revenue next fiscal year by holding its levy flat.

For years, the County Board – as with most other local taxing bodies – maximized the amount of tax dollars it could collect under state law by increasing its levy by the rate of inflation. This despite the Great Recession that saw home values plunge and unemployment and foreclosures skyrocket.

Of course, the County Board’s vote last week to keep its levy flat doesn’t mean property taxes will decline for county taxpayers. County government’s levy accounts for just about 10 percent of a homeowner’s property-tax bill.

The levy cast by school districts makes up the largest portion of your tax bill, and most school districts either have increased or are likely to increase their levy, unfortunately.

Given the struggles of taxpayers, we find it unacceptable that local taxing bodies don’t learn to live within their means. School districts, municipalities and other taxing districts all should make the appropriate expense cuts to forgo levy increases – this year and for years to come.

It’s hard to say whether the county’s tax levy freeze was motivated solely by the November elections.

The Consolidated Municipal Election is in April. Election officials from other local taxing bodies that are deciding to increase their levies should beware the wrath of voters.

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