Jack Franks wants McHenry County to reduce property tax levy by 10 percent


Published: Saturday, March 18, 2017 11:11 p.m. CDT

WOODSTOCK – McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks wants a committee to work with county officials to trim at least $7.93 million from the 2018 property tax levy – a 10 percent cut that could affect what services the county provides to residents.

Franks is proposing an ad-hoc Committee on Tax Reduction work with County Administrator Peter Austin to put together a series of proposals by June 30 to make the levy reduction possible, according to a draft resolution discussed Thursday at a Committee of the Whole meeting. The committee’s recommendations would eventually be used to craft the 2018 budget.

The draft resolution will next go to the Finance and Audit Committee on April 6 before heading to the full board for approval. Franks said the he wants to build consensus for the plan. He said the draft resolution could be amended before it gets to the county board next month.

“This didn’t sneak up on anybody. There are multiple ways that this can be approached. I think we have to balance the enthusiasm that folks have for this against some of the practical challenges,” County Administrator Peter Austin said. “As staff, our [job] is to give you options and to give you some ideas on impacts and paths that you can take. And we are prepared to do that. We’ve spent time already thinking about ramifications and different options.”

County Board member Michael Walkup said he wasn’t sure the resolution would take the board in the right direction.

“I think pulling arbitrary numbers out of the air may be good politics, but I’m not so sure it’s good government,” the District 3 representative said.

He also raised concerns about making cuts to county’s social safety net in light of what’s happening at the federal level.

“I think we need to be very careful here about protecting the people here who are most vulnerable,” Walkup said. “When you set arbitrary numbers, those are usually the first people to get axed because those are the ones that have the least constituency.”

Franks said the 10 percent levy reduction wasn’t arbitrary, but rather a minimum goal. He said he was confident that goal could be reached and that the county could possibly go further than that.

Board member Michael Skala, of District 5, wasn’t opposed to the end result, but said he thinks there is be a better way to achieve it. He said the board should first come to a consensus on issues such as if a levy reduction was preferred to an abatement. He also said the board should start by determining what county services should be offered.

“It’s going to change what county government today looks like,” he said. “We have to understand the ramifications of making cuts to any one area and what the service level or what the outcomes are going to be.”

Craig Wilcox, of District 4, said the board shouldn’t just look at cuts to the about $79 million the county gets from property taxes, but the entire $252 million budget.

“It’s not just property taxes we have to look at,” he said.