WOODSTOCK – McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks is moving forward with putting an advisory property tax freeze referendum question to voters, but backing off a plan to ask for two more aimed at government consolidation.
Franks, D-Marengo, will ask board members Tuesday night to vote to put a nonbinding question on the April 4 ballot asking whether local governments should be required to hold a referendum to increase their levies by any amount.
But he will not be asking for votes on advisory referendums on eliminating the county recorder’s office and halving the size of the County Board, which he proposed Thursday at the end of the board’s Committee of the Whole meeting. Instead, he will form an ad-hoc Committee on Government Structure and Consolidation to pave the way for binding referendums that could appear on 2018 election ballots, as well as explore other ways to consolidate and reduce government.
Besides having differing opinions on how much the board should be shrunk, as voters overwhelmingly approved in a Nov. 8 advisory question, several members objected to being presented with last-minute referendums that would not go through committee. Tuesday’s board meeting also is the last day under state law for local governments to put referendums on the April 4 ballot.
Franks said a special committee will make sure the time is taken to get it right.
“I heard the board loud and clear on Thursday, and given their concerns, I believe the specifics on County Board structure and reform should be debated further,” said Franks, who ran on a platform that included going from 24 members in six districts to 12, single-member districts.
A bill to permanently freeze property taxes statewide, requiring any increase requested by a taxing body to go to a referendum, passed the Illinois House earlier this week but did not have time for a Senate vote because of the end of the legislative session. Two bills to try again already have been filed in the House since Wednesday’s start of the new General Assembly.
“There’s no reason that McHenry County has to wait for the state,” Franks said. “I campaigned on cutting 10 percent of the [county’s] property tax levy. We need to send a very strong message to all the taxing bodies that this is what the citizens want.”
New Republican county Recorder Joe Tirio ran on the platform of asking voters to abolish his office altogether and merge it with the county clerk’s office, as is done in most Illinois counties. He said Friday that he did not understand what message an advisory referendum would have given that his election several months ago did not.
“To me, it seems like an additional cost to the county to do something we already know the people support – smaller government and eliminating this position,” Tirio said.
The McHenry County Electoral Board on Friday voted to remove a property tax freeze question from the ballot that was filed by new state Rep. Allen Skillicorn, R-East Dundee. His petition contained only 92 signatures, far short of the 7,566 required to get a countywide referendum on the ballot. Franks’ decision to pursue a similar referendum was independent of Skillicorn’s.