McHENRY – Despite staff recommending a 5 percent increase in its property tax levy, the McHenry City Council voted 6-1 to keep the levy level for a third year.
With the economy still sluggish and property values expected to drop again, several aldermen and residents said it was inappropriate for the city to raise taxes.
The proposed 5 percent increase would have brought the levy to $5 million and added about $25 to the tax bill of the owner of a home valued at $200,000 with a general homestead tax exemption. That does not take into consideration what other taxing bodies decide to do with their levies.
It would have been the first time the city took advantage of its home rule status to raise its levy beyond the amount allowed under the state’s tax cap. The city of McHenry became a home rule community in October 2010 but decided to follow the cap’s restrictions regardless that first year and then kept the levy flat the subsequent two years.
Property taxes make up about 29 percent of the city’s general fund revenues and 16 percent of all revenues.
City Administrator Derik Morefield pointed to $100,000 worth of high-priority improvements required under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, nearly $150,000 in dues to the Northern Illinois Special Recreation Association through which the city provides recreation services to residents with disabilities, and an additional $94,000 in police pension fund contributions to address previous underfunding.
The city has also eliminated 22.5 full-time staffing equivalents, reduced capital improvements and put off vehicle and equipment purchases.
The proposed increase equals about 1 percent of the budget, Alderman Victor Santi said, adding that for that amount, he thinks the city can find the money elsewhere.
Alderman Andy Glab agreed, saying the city can find “a little here and a little there” but that means everyone is not going to be able to get everything they want.
While Alderwoman Geri Condon said she didn't want to raise taxes, she decided to vote in favor of an increase because she thought it was necessary for the greater good.
“Our job is to cut where we can,” Condon said. "Our job is to also provide services to the city of McHenry, and that can never be forgotten."