CRYSTAL LAKE – The McHenry County Board of Trustees approved a $54.2 million budget Thursday, but a final decision on whether to pay a portion of it with a property-tax increase or reserves will come in December.
Trustees moved ahead with the budget that was approved 4-3 at their August meeting. The split was not a result of how much was proposed to be spent in the budget, but whether a 2.8 percent tax levy increase should be pursued or a tax freeze.
Freshmen trustees Molly Walsh, Chris Jenner and Tom Wilbeck cast a vote for the tax freeze along with board Chairman Ron Parrish. Veteran board members Mary Miller, Linda Liddell and Cynthia Kisser lobbied for a 2.8 percent increase, noting the new revenue would be lost forever if not captured this year.
Trustees voted along the same lines Thursday except Miller and Parrish were absent. Student trustee Michele Lambert also voted against the budget, but it did not count as a deciding vote.
A decision to hold the levy flat could cost the college roughly $545,000 depending on new growth. Money from reserves would be needed to make up the deficit.
Passing on the potential $545,000 this year would cause the revenue to be lost forever as any future levy increase would be building off a base that never captured that new growth and inflation adjustment.
If the board were to decide to raise the levy in December, it would have to approve an amended budget. That lengthy process is one reason Kisser had argued it would be easier to pass a budget reflecting a 2.8 percent increase in the levy and if the board decided not to pursue that option, no amendatory process would be needed.
But Walsh countered and said the board should approve a budget that reflects the intentions of trustees now.
"There should be truth in taxation ... you have to be honest," Walsh said at the previous meeting.
There was no further discussion about the budget before the approval Thursday, and there was only one public comment that was neither for or against the proposal. A 9.9 percent levy increase was approved in December 2012.