McHenry County Board passes budget, leaning on reserve funds to make up for COVID-19 revenue shortfalls

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The McHenry County Board passed a flat tax levy and a budget of $208.4 million for the 2020-21 year last week, leaning on the county’s reserves to make up for a $1.38 million revenue shortfall caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

While initial projections put the pandemic's impact on county revenue anywhere from $6.9 million to $22.1 million, the decline in sales tax revenue coming into the county was offset somewhat by a boost in online sales, according to a news release from County Board Chairman Jack Franks, D-Marengo.

This allowed the county to use its reserve funds to bridge the rest of the gap for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins Tuesday.

“McHenry County government’s long history of disciplined budgeting has allowed us to overcome the unprecedented challenges and expenses wrought by the global pandemic,” Franks said in the release.

The county’s property tax levy will remain flat beyond capturing $323,000 in new growth. That means the county is not asking for any increase on existing property value.

“McHenry County for many years has made cutting costs a top priority, long before the COVID-19 pandemic slammed government and household budgets everywhere,” Finance and Audit Committee Chairman Michael Skala, R-Huntley, said in the release. “Our longstanding policy of fiscal prudence means we can continue to weather this storm without asking for more from our taxpayers.”

The tax levy for county government makes up just under 10% of a McHenry County resident’s property tax bill, meaning some residents may still see an increase in their taxes next year if the assessed value of their home increases or if other local taxing bodies increase their tax rates.

This year’s non-property tax revenue shortfall, projected at a 4% decline, will eventually be remedied by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act money expected to come at the end of this year or early next year, which is meant to reimburse the county for expenditures related to COVID-19, County Administrator Peter Austin said in an October meeting of board members.

The county is eligible for $2.7 million in CARES Act reimbursement funds, Austin said in the meeting of the County Board’s Committee of the Whole.

Next year’s budget of $208.4 million represents a $6.9 million decrease from the $215.4 million budget for the current fiscal year.

This decrease came from a reduction in capital spending within the Division of Transportation because the most costly parts of the Randall Road improvement project have been completed, according to the release and remarks made during the October meeting.

The county did not reduce or eliminate any of the services provided to taxpayers in balancing the budget, according to the release.