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County Board OKs budget, keeps levy flat

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013 9:55 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013 11:47 p.m. CDT

WOODSTOCK – The McHenry County Board approved a balanced 2014 budget Tuesday evening that for another year freezes its property-tax levy.

Board members voted, 20-1, to approve the spending plan for the 2014 fiscal year, which for Illinois counties begins Dec. 1. The $247.9 million budget maintains the county’s fiscal health – McHenry County is one of only three Illinois counties with a Aaa credit rating from Moody’s Investors Service – while rejecting the automatic 1.7 percent inflationary tax increase taxing bodies are entitled to next year under the tax cap.

The budget includes slightly more revenue than the $247.5-million spending plan that was put on 30-day review last month. It is down $4.2 million from this year’s $252.1 million budget, which was down $6.7 million from the 2012 budget. On top of other cost-cutting measures, the board has reduced 85 board-approved job positions over the past four years.

“In this environment of stagnant revenues, the budget as presented is a maintenance budget that has only been adjusted through the natural growth of employee benefits and limited supplemental [costs],” the budget letter prepared by county staff said.

County government for the second straight year will keep its property-tax levy flat, a decision that according to county records will mean at least $1.35 million less in revenue next year.

The tax cap law in place on the collar counties since 1991 to rein in skyrocketing tax bills has had an unforeseen effect with property values declining in the wake of the bursting of the housing bubble. When home values are rising, the law limits the increase that taxing bodies can receive over the previous year to either 5 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. But when values fall, a scenario state lawmakers never envisioned, the tax cap ensures that governments receive the inflationary rate if they so choose.

County Board members in June voted to reject the 1.7 percent inflationary increase on next year’s tax bills. Likewise, they voted last year to spurn the 3 percent increase the county could have collected on this year’s tax bills.

How they voted

In two 20-1 votes Tuesday evening, the McHenry County Board approved its 2014 budget and 2014 tax levy. Board member John Hammerand, R-Wonder Lake, cast the sole opposing vote on both matters. Board members Robert Martens Sr., R-Spring Grove; Mary McClellan, R-Holiday Hills; and Paula Yensen, D-Lake in the Hills, were absent.

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