McHenry County Board proposes fiscal 2019 budget with $9.8M in tax cuts

McHenry County officials have proposed a 2019 budget that includes more than $9.8 million in tax cuts.

Of that amount, $7.53 million come from abatements and $2.3 million come from permanent reductions in the county’s property tax levy.

 “For the second straight year, we’re offering taxpayers meaningful relief by reducing almost $10 million from our levy,” McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks said. “When you add in the $8 million that we abated for this current fiscal year, that’s about $18 million that we’re keeping in the pockets of taxpayers, so I want to thank the board for their hard work.”

Last year’s budget included a $71.8 million property tax levy. The 2019 budget includes a $69.8 million levy.

The budget was released at the board’s regular meeting Tuesday night for a 30-day review. The board will vote on the budget Nov. 13.

“That totals $9.83 million that we’re proposing giving back to the taxpayers that we’re not going to collect this year,” said County Board member Michael Skala, who is chairman of the Finance and Audit Committee. “That’s something to be very proud of.”

The bulk of the permanent cuts comes from retired debt that rolled off the government’s books, Skala said. A reduced workforce head count also contributed to the cuts.

Abatements target line items throughout the budget, but those cuts will not affect services. For example, the proposed budget includes a
$1.65 million abatement for senior services, but the program will remain fully funded using Valley Hi Nursing Home’s $40 million surplus.

The 2019 budget totals $211.6 million, which is $4.45 million less than the $216 million budget set for 2018.

Additions to the budget include $6.7 million to fund new police and emergency radios, a reconfiguration of the McHenry County Administration Building in Woodstock, and construction in the courthouse parking lot.

“We have a balanced budget that is smaller than the previous year without cutting a single service that the public relies on,” Franks said.

County Board member Joe Gottemoller said savings to taxpayers have been great in the past several years.

“Over the last five years, we left $29 million on the table,” Gottemoller said, applauding county staff for their work shaping next year’s budget.

The numbers included in the proposed budget could change before the County Board votes next month, Skala said, but taxpayers will see the same effect on their tax bills.

The County Board last year approved a budget including a 9.5 percent reduction in the county’s property tax levy.

Franks, who took office in December 2016 as the first board chairman directly elected by voters, ran on a campaign of cutting the county levy by 10 percent.

“I’ll say this until I’m blue in my face,” Franks said. “We need all of our taxing bodies – our municipalities, our townships [and] our school districts – to join us and reduce their budgets and to lower their levies.”