WOODSTOCK – The McHenry County Board will seek an advisory referendum asking school districts to cut their tax levies by at least 10 percent.
Following on the heels of the County Board’s approval of a fiscal 2018 budget that included an 11.2 percent reduction of the property tax levy, a resolution submitted to the Law and Government Committee seeks to ask voters in the March 20 primary election whether they would like to see school districts do the same by 2020.
The action comes from committee Chairwoman Michele Aavang and board members John Jung and Christopher Spoerl.
“Taxpayers are struggling with a property tax burden that’s one of the highest in the nation,” Aavang, R-Woodstock, said in a statement. “Every year, senior citizens are being forced to move because they can no longer afford to live here. This referendum will give voters the ability to ask their local school districts to follow the County Board’s example and reduce their tax levies.”
McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks said the County Board will use the 11.2 percent cut to the county’s property tax levy as a “bully pulpit” to push other governing bodies to cut their own levies.
“Although the County Board led the way and reduced its levy by 11.2 percent, county government makes up only about 10 percent of property tax bills,” Franks said in a statement. “The biggest chunk, by far, goes to local school districts. They need to follow our example and reduce their levies as well.”
At a regular meeting Tuesday, all County Board members voted in favor of the budget and a $71.4 million property tax levy that will collect $8 million less next year than the county collected this year.
The Law and Government Committee will address the proposed referendum at its Nov. 27 meeting. The referendum then would go to the County Board for a vote Dec. 12.
“As a former school board president, I understand both sides of this issue, but the property tax burden that residents face is quickly becoming unsustainable,” Spoerl, R-Cary, said in a statement. “McHenry County’s ongoing population loss alarms me, and I believe the property tax burden homeowners face is a major contributing factor. Something has to change.”
Advisory referendums allow residents to weigh in on issues, but they are not legally binding – the County Board has no statutory power to dictate budget policy for school districts.
The referendum question is not an attack on teachers or public education, Franks said, but a call for school boards to examine cost efficiencies and trim unnecessary expenses.
“County residents are being taxed out of their homes,” Franks said. “It’s time – it is past time – for school districts and other governments to act.”