McHenry County Board passes budget without inflationary property tax increase
McHenry County will collect more in property taxes last year, but only part of what it's allowed under state law.
The 2022 budget, totaling $215.8 million, and the accompanying $70 million property tax levy, was approved in two 14-9 votes Tuesday night following a tense, hourlong debate.
Under state law, taxing entities like McHenry County are limited in how much they can raise their property tax levies by, with increases tied to inflation plus new construction, such as the construction of a new building or addition to a house.
The levy passed Tuesday takes the increase for new construction but not the inflationary increase, which would affect existing property value, amounting to an increase of about $419,000 over last year.
County officials had initially proposed requesting both inflation and new construction, but pushback by McHenry County Board members led to the change.
While the levy amount was reduced from the initial proposal, the board continued Tuesday to debate whether raising the tax levy at all after a pandemic and amid high inflation was the right decision.
"A tax increase is a tax increase, no matter what you do," said board member Jim Kearns, R-Huntley. "This is the year that every single resident of this county is going to get their butts kicked."
Kearns pushed for two amendments to the revenue plan Tuesday that would have kept the tax levy for 2022 flat, but both failed.
Other board members said the county needed to make sure their accounts were funded well enough to handle rising costs from inflation expected over the next year.
"I certainly don't want to increase taxes, but our residents are also expecting a level of service that the county has been giving," said board member Theresa Meshes, D-Fox River Grove.
Board member Pamela Althoff, R-McHenry, said members were making too many assumptions about next year's economy.
County Chief Financial Officer Kevin Bueso said the county can run next year without increasing the levy, even though it was the staff's desire to boost up funds following the 10% levy cut the board made in 2017.
With about $1 million less in revenue next year than originally planned, Bueso said the county will now transfer less money to capital projects. Instead, it will propose funding some capital projects with money from the federal American Rescue Plan.
Some board members said they were frustrated with the last-minute attempt to change the budget, with board member Carlos Acosta, D-Woodstock, describing it as "budgeting on a napkin."
"All this maneuvering around is because there's an election next year and nobody wants to run on raising taxes," said board member John Collins, D-McHenry.