CRYSTAL LAKE - The McHenry County College Board approved a budget with an assumed property tax freeze Thursday, but a final decision to hold the levy remains in limbo.
Bob Tenuta, the college’s chief financial officer, presented trustees with two different budgets showing the difference between increasing the levy 2.8 percent to capture estimated new growth or holding taxes flat. The difference in revenue would be roughly $545,000.
The board voted, 4-3, in favor of a budget with no tax increase, but only to put it on public display for the next 30 days as a levy vote will occur in December. Chairman Ron Parrish, Molly Walsh, Tom Wilbeck and Chris Jenner voted in favor, while Mary Miller, Linda Liddell and Cynthia Kisser voted against it.
Kisser urged the board to approve the budget with a 2.8 percent levy increase because it would still give the option for the board to freeze taxes in December without having to go through an additional budget process. By approving the budget with no increase, the board would have to make budget amendments if a levy increase is ultimately approved.
"We're not deciding on a levy now," Kisser said. "We can always choose to freeze it later and not have to change the budget."
But Walsh and Parrish disagreed with the philosophy, saying passing on a chance to approve a budget that reflected no levy increase would paint the board into a corner.
"If there is a consensus on this board to do a flat levy, then I think it should reflect that," Walsh said. "There should be truth in taxation ... you have to be honest."
While the vote was only to put the proposed budget on public display, Miller warned against following through with a flat levy. She said passing on the potential $545,000 this year would be lost forever as any future levy increase would be building off a base that never captured that new growth and inflation adjustment.
"When you don't levy ... it's gone for eternity," she said. "That to me is not good practice, not good policy. It doesn't even cover inflation."
If the board decides to hold the levy in December, the college could still spend the same amount with the difference realized in either transfers to capital and maintenance or in fund balances. Tenuta noted it was good policy to maintain between 25 percent and 40 percent of operating costs as a fund balance and that the college has a roughly 40 percent fund balance.