McHenry County Board pushes $15 million Valley Hi property tax rebate

WOODSTOCK – McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks is angling to refund $15 million from Valley Hi Nursing Home reserves to eligible residents.

Siphoning $15 million from Valley Hi’s $40 million surplus would leave the county-operated nursing home in Woodstock more than two years of reserve funding, Franks said.

The chairman contends that the Valley Hi surplus is the result of overtaxation.

“We can’t truly say we’re fighting for the taxpayers while Valley Hi is sitting on a reserve big enough to cover more than three years of expenses,” Franks said in a statement. “Rebating a healthy portion of that to homeowners while still leaving Valley Hi a responsible fiscal cushion is the right thing to do.”

Money from Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements, property taxes and private-pay customers is what makes up Valley Hi’s revenue stream.

The new rebate figures are almost double the $8.9 million that Franks proposed to rebate to taxpayers in a resolution last year.

If approved, the resolution would make certain residents eligible for a rebate.

Eligible homeowners must have taken the homestead exemption during the 2017 tax year, and they must have paid their taxes on time.

About 88,000 properties could qualify, Franks said. Eligible homeowners who paid $500 in property taxes to the county last year could get about $150 – or about 30 percent of what they paid to the county.

“We owe it to taxpayers to do whatever we can to help, and righting this wrong without hurting Valley Hi’s mission to care for our indigent seniors is an important step,” Franks said.

The proposal could go before the County Board for a vote in March.

The county’s Finance and Audit Committee discussed the latest rebate resolution at a meeting Thursday morning.

County Administrator Peter Austin said he had a conversation with Valley Hi administrator Thomas Annarella about his feelings on moving forward with
$15 million less in the nursing home’s reserves.

“I can assure you Annarella feels comfortable that he can manage his way through this,” Austin said.

District 3 representative Chris Christensen said the county never should have been in this position.

“I don’t know if any asset that the county owns should have a $40 million reserve in it,” Christensen said. “[It] seems to me we just overcollected.”

Associate County Administrator Ralph Sarbaugh clarified what he viewed as the genesis of the reserve.

“There was a decision made about three years after we had the levy to bring in an outside company to look at the operations of the nursing home and to help us turn it around so there wasn’t such a heavy dependence on that levy,” Sarbaugh said. “They did a wonderful job, and since then, we’ve kept our dollars much more to the line. Had we not done that, you probably wouldn’t have had the amount of money in reserve that you have today. So there was a huge change in the operation philosophy of the nursing home.”