Last week McHenry County Administrator Peter Austin presented the rough draft of the proposed 2016 budget showing proposed decrease in the budget of $10,099,624. This number is still subject to a few changes but this is the 90 percent solution. In a time where the McHenry County taxpayer pays the 29th most expensive tax rate in the United States at least one government body is cutting its budget significantly.
Sadly, the taxpayers of McHenry County will see little or no relief on their property tax bill. The reality is that most will see a substantial increase in their property taxes. I will explain that in a minute but lets look at the good news first.
Looking At the Numbers
Here are our appropriated budgets for fiscal years 2007 through 2016. 2016 is a projected number, but the number is very close to what the actual number will be.
This chart clearly shows that after the last election cycle in 2014 the county board heard you. Well, most of us did. And just as importantly, the staff at the county also heard you. And how was the county able to achieve this?
The county has removed 175 positions inside the county government since 2011. However, that does not tell the entire story.
Our new sheriff Bill Prim has kept his promise to bring some fiscal sanity back to the department. He has reduced the head count and overtime within the department. He, and his staff, have enacted new policies that not only keep staff safe, but also make running the jail more economical. Sheriff Bill Prim had a very tough primary election and there we many, including sitting county board members, who doubted Bill and worked against him. We can all thank Bill for keeping his promise to maintain safety and also pass on some savings to you and I.
Another honorable mention is McHenry County Health Administrator Michael Hill. Mike has taken a very hard look at all the grant money coming into the health department and identified “free money” that really wasn’t free. He streamlined operations, reduced staffing, and did not take a grant unless it really made sense. I am very thankful for Mr. Hill and the work he is doing. I know his job isn’t done bringing more efficient practices to the department but when you have someone do the hard work they need to be recognized.
New Budget Procedure
One of the big changes on the county board side is how we are now reviewing the budget. In the past it was all done at the end of the fiscal year giving board members very little time to review staff requests and flesh out details. Now this starts much earlier in the fiscal year. It does make county staff work a little differently but this is how we do it in the private sector and its my opinion that this is how all government bodies should work. It should also be noted here that our Associate County Administrator Ralph Sarbaugh took this challenge and worked with the departments and board members to ensure the transition to this new way of budgeting happened with a minimal amount of confusion.
The Bad News
Why do your property taxes go up every year?
Ask yourself, is every local government that taxes you reducing the size and scope of their budget like the county is? The school districts, the park districts, the conservation district, the townships, the cities and villages… are they reducing their budgets like the county is? If you do not know you should ask. The truth is that they are not. They are taxing you more every year. They nickle and dime us into needing a second mortgage just to pay your taxes every year.
Hard, tough decisions, they need to be made. In a time when social security is getting a ZERO PERCENT (0%) increase how can we at the county increase our levy? How is the senior citizen who may see a 50% increase in their Medicare Premium going to pay for these new taxes and contracts? How can a village or township increase their levy or install a TIF District? How can a school district ask for more money?
They shouldn’t raise taxes but they will.
Our population in McHenry County is decreasing and those who do stay are getting older. Our tax base is shrinking. How many of you reading this would love to leave Illinois?
You elected me to be your McHenry County Watchdog. I am. I am not taking the Cadillac Healthcare Plan and I am not taking the politician pension either. I term limited myself so I could do the hard work without worrying about re-election. I represent you. I know you can make better decisions for yourself and your families with your money than any politician ever could. We need to pay taxes for a stable community however we shouldn’t be the 29th highest property taxed county in the United States either.
I will be slowly rolling out comparisons of our county’s budget with every taxing body inside McHenry County, all 106 of them between now and March. We will find out who the tax and spenders are and who the fiscally responsible are. And remember, all of these local governments… who runs them? Democrats or Republicans?