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Local Editorials

Our View: Don't forget the taxpayers

Congratulations to the winners of the Tuesday’s election and to the others who sought to make differences in their communities, on school boards, library boards or in other capacities.

While a 15 percent McHenry County voter turnout is still abysmal, it’s an improvement over the trend of about 10 percent over the last few local election cycles. Here’s hoping that an awakening of sorts is taking place.

Anecdotally, there were more candidates explicitly running on platforms advocating property tax cuts. That’s also a positive trend. Some were successful and many others weren’t, but it’s important that property taxes are a large part of the local election discussion.

Just saying that you’re going to cut taxes doesn’t necessarily make one the best candidate. One vote on a school board or a city council is just that. What kind of leadership qualities does the candidate possess? Let’s hear some creative and realistic solutions. While the bulk of our property taxes go toward public schools, is cutting taxes the only thing that matters there? No, of course not.

We’re expecting these conversations to continue over the next election cycles, and there will need to be more conversations. School board candidates supported by teachers’ unions did particularly well Tuesday night, and while teachers certainly care about much more than their own paychecks, they probably don’t represent the interest of the retired empty nester who’s struggling to pay property taxes. What’s fairly obvious is that teachers do vote, and they’ll vote in their interest. Why wouldn’t they?

Regardless of campaign platforms, incoming school board members, village trustees, mayors and others have a responsibility to put taxpayers on the top of their list of concerns. We are woefully overburdened with property taxes in McHenry County, and leaders in these positions are among those who have some control over that burden.

Those who stayed home from the polls while complaining about their high property tax bills should also take heed. While their complaints are heard, if their votes aren’t counted they’re still pushing a boulder uphill. Beyond property taxes, what residents want and deserve are leaders who are transparent, who listen to their interests, who communicate with constituents and who understand that they took a position to serve the public. There will be disagreements, but members of the public should be treated with courtesy and dignity and decisions should be made as openly as possible.

Many towns and boards are looking forward to fresh starts, and we wish all of our taxing bodies and members new and old much success in the coming years.

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