Local Editorials

Our view: McHenry County referendums

A question on the November ballot will ask McHenry-area voters whether they support a referendum to expand the McHenry Recreation Center.
A question on the November ballot will ask McHenry-area voters whether they support a referendum to expand the McHenry Recreation Center.

We are for the consolidation of townships, but the McHenry Township road district abolishment only will hurt that cause. There is no plan, and the move ultimately could hurt taxpayers unless a plan is in place.

We’ve said it before, and we will say it again. Illinois has almost 7,000 units of local government – far too many. Eliminating the state’s 1,431 townships would be a good start down the path of government consolidation and an end to embarrassing and wasteful township politics.

This referendum on its own, however, is the wrong way to start the process. We’d be better served to consolidate the road districts and townships en masse, sharing equipment and services across the current arbitrary lines.

The problem in this particular case – which would abolish the road district and transfer the “rights, powers, duties, assets, property, liabilities, obligations and responsibilities” of the district to the township – is that there is no further plan.

And if this blows up in the township trustees’ faces, it very easily could be used to set back the process of consolidating the state’s many townships altogether. The taxpayers cannot afford that. There is no proof to show this process would save money, as proponents say it will. We’re concerned this referendum is being pushed through without enough thought, and we worry the effect on the service to residents could be detrimental.

Residents need to know the effect the elimination of the road district would have on their tax bills and quality of service before they vote.

If voters decide to abolish the road district, no changes would take place until the end of McHenry Township Highway Commissioner James Condon’s term in 2021 – meaning there’s time to study the issue further so residents can make an informed vote. For those reasons, we endorse voting no to abolishing the McHenry Township road district.

City of McHenry

McHenry residents have two decisions to make – whether the city should build an addition to the McHenry Recreation Center and whether McHenry High School District 156 should make significant changes to the McHenry West and East high school campuses.

Both items come at a cost.

To make the improvements to the recreation center – which would include an indoor pool, gymnasium and an outdoor family aquatic park – the city would have to issue bonds up to $30 million. If the referendum goes through, homeowners with a $168,000 home could expect to see their property taxes rise by about $180 annually for up to 20 years, according to city documents.

To make improvements to the schools – which could include constructing a Science, Technology and Industry Center at West Campus, expanding West Campus and renovating East Campus classrooms, among other items – District 156 would have to issue bonds to the amount of $44 million. The ultimate plan aims to house all freshmen at McHenry East and send those in grades 10 through 12 to the expanded McHenry West, district officials have said.

A taxpayer with a $200,000 home currently pays about $273 annually toward the district’s bonds, which the district is set to pay off in levy year 2018. If the referendum is approved, those payments would be replaced, and the same taxpayer would pay about $208 annually in property taxes to pay for the new building bonds, according to district documents.

Improved recreational facilities and schools can make a community a better place to live and help attract new businesses and homeowners. However, it also would cost the taxpayers of McHenry. It’s up to voters to weigh the costs and benefits of these proposals.

County Board

All McHenry County voters will face two referendum questions in the upcoming election regarding imposing term limits on the McHenry County Board chairman and its members.

If passed, the first would limit the County Board chairman to office for two full terms, or 10 years, starting in 2020. The second would limit County Board members to serving 12 years starting in 2022.

Term limits help prevent career politicians from monopolizing seats and give a chance to newcomers who offer different perspectives to the board. Both limits would allow members to be in office for at least
10 years, giving the chairperson or board member plenty of time to accomplish their goals on the board.

Although we understand there are some unintended consequences to imposing term limits – kicking good people out of office and having less experienced elected officials, to name a couple – the pros to term limits outweigh the cons.

We endorse voting yes on both referendums seeking to impose term limits on the County Board.

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