Our view: Stop playing politics, serve your constituents

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Published: Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017 5:30 a.m. CST

McHenry County residents pay way too much in property taxes.

We’ve written the above line – or some variation of it – at least a hundred times over the past several years.

Property taxes here are 29th highest by county in the nation, according to one study.

And according to a 2015 analysis by the Chicago Tribune, McHenry County residents pay by far the highest median effective property tax rates – 4.02 percent of their homes’ value, annually – of any of the collar counties, Chicago and Cook included. By comparison, Chicago residents pay a median 2.1 percent. DuPage County: 2.75 percent. Lake County: 3.3 percent.

Out-of-control property taxes are a major reason why McHenry County has been losing population since 2010.

Democrat Jack Franks, the county’s first popularly elected McHenry County Board chairman, ran for office last year largely on the platform of reducing county residents’ property tax burden. He did so in a Republican-dominated county against a Republican opponent and he won convincingly, carrying 57.5 percent of the vote.

Many Republican County Board members ran on a similar platform of reducing property taxes.

That makes last week’s County Board vote all the more perplexing.

Franks asked the Republican-dominated board to place an advisory referendum on the April 4 ballot. The referendum, similar to ones already approved in Lakewood, Fox River Grove, and Lake in the Hills, asks voters whether local taxing bodies should require their permission to raise taxes by any amount.

But by a 17-7 vote, the County Board instead removed it from the agenda, citing “procedural” concerns. It’s now too late to get the item on the April ballot.

Unfortunately, the vote was more about politics than good governance. It was more about Republicans blocking Democrat Franks than doing what is right for their constituents.

Yes, it’s an advisory referendum, meaning it’s nonbinding. Nothing directly happens if the referendum passes or fails. But it could send a message:

To local school boards and other taxing bodies that consistently raise their tax levies each year despite the huge burden on homeowners and local businesses. To lawmakers in Springfield who are considering property tax freeze legislation in addition to enormous tax increases in other areas.

Our message to the County Board: Stop playing politics and do what voters elected you to do in the first place: work in their best interests.