Local

County Board approves amended Conservation District budget

Elizabeth Kessler, Executive Director of the McHenry County Conservation District, speaks in front of Todd Donohue (back left) and Amy Haiaer (back right), co-owners of Modcamp LLC, during a presentation put on by the McHenry County Conservation District and Modcamping LLC on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018 at the Prairieview Education Center in Crystal Lake.
Elizabeth Kessler, Executive Director of the McHenry County Conservation District, speaks in front of Todd Donohue (back left) and Amy Haiaer (back right), co-owners of Modcamp LLC, during a presentation put on by the McHenry County Conservation District and Modcamping LLC on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018 at the Prairieview Education Center in Crystal Lake.

An amended McHenry County Conservation District budget was approved without opposition during Tuesday’s McHenry County Board meeting after facing weeks of scrutiny over a $206,000 property tax levy increase.

Although the conservation district has not requested a levy increase in seven years, Chairman Jack Franks has been critical of the district’s fiscal 2020 levy request, especially after the county has taken efforts to lower its own levy.

The bill for a home with a median home value of $215,000 would increase by $6.70 because of the Conservation District’s property tax increases, the district’s executive director, Elizabeth Kessler, has said.

On Thursday, the board agreed to remove $206,000 from its Dedicated Accounts Capital Fund to avoid any reductions that would require the removal of staff or services.

The vote to amend the budget also included a provision authorizing a memo to be sent to Franks committing the Conservation District to reducing its levy by the 2018 increase minus new growth, which comes out to about $163,681.

The budget was approved by a 22-0 vote, with board member Michelle Aavang abstaining.

In a letter dated Friday to Franks and the McHenry County Board, the Conservation District board requested a commitment from the county board that if the district’s property tax levy for the 2019 tax year is adopted as ordered, that the County Board agrees to approve a resolution adopting the District’s combined budget and appropriation ordinance for fiscal 2021 before May 31, 2020, so long as the appropriations in that budget and appropriation ordinance are consistent with the 2019 tax levy.

A follow-up letter dated Saturday removed this request and a third letter, also dated Saturday, officially rescinded the first letter.

Vern Scacci, vice president of the Conservation District board, said he has heard many board members state that they are concerned about the district’s “flawed” budget process and that stronger communication between the county and conservation boards is required. In his last year with the board, Scacci said he will be committed to working with the county board.

Conservation District Board president Dave Kranz, whose term ends next month, said it has been an awesome experience to serve the district and his passion and enthusiasm will continue.

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