Local

Property owners, businesses sue McHenry County schools, governments over property taxes

WOODSTOCK – A recent lawsuit against eight local taxing bodies that claims 2014 levies were invalid or unnecessary is part of what a St. Charles attorney said will be an annual effort against overtaxation in McHenry County.

The county, Community High School District 155, Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47, Harrison School District 36, Algonquin Township, Algonquin Road District, McHenry Township and McHenry Road District all are named defendants in a lawsuit filed Thursday by 132 plaintiffs, who are represented by Timothy Dwyer of Dwyer Law Office.

In such lawsuits, the county treasurer and collector – in this case, McHenry County Treasurer Glenda Miller – is named as a defendant, but the independent taxing entities are the “real party interests,” Dwyer said.

The plaintiffs are seeking a refund, including accrued interest, on their 2014 taxes collected by the defending parties “by reason of excessive, illegal or voidable levies, assessments and taxes,” the lawsuit says.

“That’s the short-term goal,” Dwyer said. “The long-term goal of this is a reduced taxation for all the residents.”

The recent lawsuit alleges the county overtaxed for numerous funds – the Valley Hi Nursing Home Enterprise Fund, the County Bridge Fund, the Matching Fund and the Loss Prevention and Protection Fund – despite significant surpluses.

It also challenges the entire levy adopted by District 36 in 2014, specifically naming the transportation fund levy of about $1.8 million, which the documents say was more than five times the necessary amount.

District 36 Superintendent Sue Wings said the district was aware of the lawsuit and acknowledged the transportation fund is a point of concern.

“We began discussions earlier in the fall on how we wanted to approach the levy this year so that we’re not levying a large amount in the transportation fund as it’s been done in the past,” Wings wrote in an email.

Similar allegations are detailed regarding District 155 and District 47, both of which also are involved in another ongoing tax levy objection case in which Dwyer is representing about four dozen plaintiffs.

In addition to questioning the validity of 2013 taxes imposed by the two school districts, last year’s lawsuit also claimed taxes imposed by the city of Crystal Lake were illegal because only three City Council members, not four, voted for it.

A judge sided with the taxpayers on that claim in the spring, but the city since has filed an appeal, which is pending, Dwyer said. He and the two involved school districts have filed summary judgment motions, which also are pending, Dwyer added.

The more recent complaint says District 155’s entire 2014 levy of $72.5 million should be invalidated, and it was requested even though the district “had ample funds to reduce or eliminate its levy and still ensure payment of all obligations within the ensuing fiscal year.”

The involved townships and road districts also are accused of overtaxing despite having sufficient funds to get by without imposing levies, according to the complaint.

Dwyer said his intention is to file this type of lawsuit on an annual basis in McHenry County.

This year’s lawsuit is the product of a review of about 32 taxing entities, he said, adding the county has more than 100 total.

A motion hearing for the lawsuit filed last week is scheduled for 9 a.m. Dec. 3 at the McHenry County Government Center, Room 103, before Judge John D. Bolger. A status update for the complaint filed last year is scheduled for 9 a.m. Dec. 3 in Room 204 before Judge Michael T. Caldwell.

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