WOODSTOCK – The McHenry County Board voted Tuesday night to approve an advisory referendum encouraging school districts to cut their property tax levies by 10 percent.
The 21-2 vote came on the heels of the board’s approval of a fiscal 2018 budget that includes an
11.2 percent reduction of the property tax levy.
Drafted by board members Michele Aavang, John Jung and Christopher Spoerl, the March 20 primary election ballot will ask voters whether they would like to see school districts do the same by 2020.
A small group of board members took issue with the referendum.
District 5 representative Michael Skala chalked up the referendum to a self-serving political statement.
“This is a boastful resolution that plays well for sound bites for politicians out campaigning,” Skala said. “Talk about egos getting in the way of public dialogue.”
At a regular meeting in November, all 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.
McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks said the board would use the 11.2 percent cut to the county’s property tax levy as a bully pulpit to urge other governing bodies to cut their own levies.
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.
District 3 representative Michael Walkup said school districts should not be “bludgeoned” and bullied to cut their property tax levies.
“One size does not fit all,” Walkup said. “This is what happens when you put politics ahead of government.”
The referendum is nothing more than a tactic for County Board politicians to advance their own self interests, Walkup said.
“It’s a publicity stunt,” he said.
Spoerl, the representative for District 1, defended the referendum. He said it’s a way to help other governing bodies focus on lightening a property tax burden that has pushed McHenry County residents to move elsewhere.
“If we don’t back this up, what statement has that made?” Spoerl said. “There are some very well-run districts out there. I think we all want to have very fine schools. ... On the other hand, we have to make sure the cost benefit is there.”
Franks said there’s nothing wrong with using the board’s recent vote to cut the county’s property tax levy by 11.2 percent as a tool to push others to make similar cuts in a fight against crushing property taxes.
“Let’s send a shot across the bow,” Franks said.
HOW THEY VOTED
Yes: Christopher Spoerl, Robert Nowak, Thomas Wilbeck, Joe Gottemoller, Donald Kopsell, Chris Christensen, Kay Rial Bates, Paula Yensen, John Jung Jr., Michele Aavang, Jim Kearns, Larry Smith, Yvonne Barnes, Donna Kurtz, Jeffrey Thorsen, John Reinert, John Hammerand, Craig Wilcox, Chuck Wheeler, Michael Rein and James Heisler.
No: Michael Skala and Michael Walkup.
Absent: Mary McCann.