2 referendums to appear on primary ballots in McHenry County

Harvard residents also will consider referendum on funding parks, library

Fox River Grove public works employees Mark Stockley (left) and Scott Churchill attach curtains to voting booths April 3 at Algonquin Road Elementary School in Fox River Grove.
Fox River Grove public works employees Mark Stockley (left) and Scott Churchill attach curtains to voting booths April 3 at Algonquin Road Elementary School in Fox River Grove.

CRYSTAL LAKE – McHenry County voters have some tough decisions to make this election season. And there’s more to think about than County Board candidates.

Come March 20, three referendums will appear on certain ballots for voter consideration.

Of two countywide referendums, one will be binding and deals with the elimination of the county recorder’s office, while the other seeks the perspective of voters on whether school districts should cut their property tax levies by 10 percent. The third referendum will go to voters in the city of Harvard to ask whether they want to fund improvements to city parks and the library.

Here’s some background to help voters before they hit the polls:

Should the county recorder’s office be eliminated?

In June, County Board members voted to put a binding referendum to voters in the 2018 primary, asking whether the office should be folded into the clerk’s office.

The board approved the question without any debate as part of its routine consent agenda.

If voters approve the referendum, the office will be merged with the county clerk and will cease to exist Dec. 1, 2020.

The recorder’s office, which has
3.4 million documents on file, is responsible for recording, retrieving and maintaining land records and real estate transactions, subdivision plans, military discharge papers and other records. 

Most of the state’s 102 counties have a combined clerk and recorder’s office because state law requires a county to have at least 60,000 people to separate them. But with the advance of scanning and computer storage technology, several of the handful of counties with separate offices have consolidated them as a cost-cutting measure.

Voters in four counties since 2011 – Tazewell, McLean, Peoria and Cook – have chosen to consolidate their clerk and recorders’ offices.

Should school districts cut their property tax levies by 10 percent?

The McHenry County Board voted in December 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 primary election ballot will ask voters whether they would like to see school districts do the same by 2020.

The referendum represents another push to appease voters and homeowners tired of high property taxes – and the state’s worsening economic climate – who are looking to cut anything from anywhere they can.

Should tax dollars be shuffled in Harvard?

In Harvard, residents will consider whether to shuffle tax dollars to fund improvements and maintenance to city parks and the Harvard Diggins Library.

Residents would not see an increase on their tax bills, but a “yes” vote could mean they won’t see a planned decrease, either.

About $100 from a homeowner’s property taxes goes toward paying off debt for the city swimming pool. The loan will be paid off in 2019, so the city no longer will tax residents for the payment. This specific tax generates about $300,000 on an annual basis, Harvard officials said.

Voters will consider the question during the March 20 primary election. If the referendum passes, the city will split the funding, with half going toward the library to avoid service cuts and half going to the improvement of Harvard’s parks.

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