McHenry County Board authorizes $15 million property tax rebate

McHenry County homeowners can apply to recoup just under 30 percent of last year’s county government property tax bill.

The county board Tuesday voted 18-6 authorizing a $15 million property tax rebate from Valley Hi Nursing Home’s abundant reserves — an issue several board members have talked about for years.

The county-run nursing home has had ample reserves — about $40 million — covering nearly four years of its operations. Even with the rebate, Valley Hi would retain more than two years worth of operating funds in reserve.

County Board Chairman Jack Franks said the fund’s rich balance was the result of years of overtaxation. He proposed the rebate last fall.

“When property tax bills are mailed out next month, they will include instructions on how homeowners can apply to get some of their tax money back,” said Franks, a Marengo Democrat. “I know of no other government doing this. We’re delivering tax relief while strengthening Valley Hi’s mission to care for our indigent seniors. That mission will be improved, courtesy of the long and thoughtful debates the county board has had in the months leading up to the vote.”

The county board also plans to begin studying the possible addition of a 20-bed dementia wing to the Woodstock facility. The board’s public health and community services committee will seek a request for qualifications for a market study for the construction of a dementia wing at its May 2 meeting.

Board member Jeffrey Thorsen, a Crystal Lake Republican representing District 2 who voted against the rebate, said it was “premature” because the board has not evaluated the future of Valley Hi, the scope of the dementia wing project and the needs of the county’s indigent and aging populations.

“We haven’t discussed any of the potential objectives for Valley Hi in the future,” he said. “The only concern that I think all of us have is we have a pool of money here and we have certain things that we can do to make Valley Hi self-sustaining.”

Thorsen added, Valley Hi currently does not have an operating board that could advise the county board before its decision.

Interested homeowners can determine their eligibility for a rebate by filling out an online form on the treasurer’s office website.

To be eligible, homeowners must have taken the homestead exemption during the 2017 tax year for bills payable in 2018, and paid their taxes. Homeowners exempt from paying any property taxes under the disabled veterans’ homestead exemption do not qualify.

The rebate amount is calculated by a formula based on the amount the homeowner paid in taxes to county government in 2018. Roughly 88,000 McHenry County properties potentially could qualify. Unclaimed rebate funds will go back to Valley Hi, officials said.