McHenry County Board votes to cut tax levy by 10 percent

April 21, 2017

McHenry County homeowners pay some of the highest property taxes in the state – and the nation. The McHenry County Board voted April 18 on a plan to give residents some relief.

Members of the McHenry County Board voted in favor of a pledge to cut the McHenry County tax levy by 10 percent, the Northwest Herald reported. The cut will go into effect starting in 2018. Board members approved the pledge to residents in a landslide vote of 23-1, setting a goal of cutting at least $7.9 million in taxes.

The vote also created a new committee on the McHenry County Board to plan ways to implement the necessary changes.

In addition to receiving overwhelming support, the plan was also bipartisan: County Chairman Jack Franks, D-Marengo, and Board Member Andrew Gasser, R-Fox River Grove, came together to author the tax levy reduction.

“We pay more [in property taxes] than 99.9 percent of the entire country,” Franks said. He later added, “I was not going to wait on Springfield … we are listening to our constituents.”

When asked if he would pursue local government consolidation, Franks indicated there were multiple offices, including elected offices, in McHenry County he was considering consolidating, such as the county coroner’s office and the sanitary district. Franks maintained that residents would not face a reduction in services from any consolidation effort.

McHenry County property taxes are some of the highest in the state and nation

While the promise to cut the county tax levy is a good first step, more remains to be done. McHenry County’s property tax rate is a whopping 4 percent, the highest property tax rate of all Chicago’s collar counties. The property tax rate is so high that homeowners in McHenry County will pay more in property taxes over the next 25 years than they will for their mortgages. As a result, residents have been fleeing McHenry County in droves. McHenry County’s population has been shrinking since 2010, which is not surprising. Property taxes hurt middle-class homeowners the most, and make it especially difficult to manage the costs of owning a home.

“If we do not lower our property taxes, we’ll never reach our full potential,” Franks said.

In January 2017, Franks proposed a plan to have a referendum to allow voters to have an advisory referendum on whether local taxing bodies should need voter approval to raise property taxes. But the majority-Republican McHenry County Board killed the measure, voting it down 17-7.

However, McHenry County is just one of the many places in Illinois where property taxes have become unaffordable for homeowners. Illinois has some of the highest property taxes and one of the worst overall tax burdens in the country. Lawmakers in Springfield should take note of McHenry County’s latest vote and implement much-needed, statewide property tax relief.