Raise property taxes in La Salle County to build a morgue? A board member suggests voters decide.

Znaniecki calls for binding referendum

Does La Salle County need a morgue? That should be up to voters, said La Salle County Board member Arratta Znaniecki (R-Ottawa). During the board meeting Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023, Znaniecki called for a binding referendum in November 2024 on whether to fund and construct a morgue.

A member of the La Salle County Board has called for voters to decide next year whether to fund and build a county morgue.

On Thursday, board member Arratta Znaniecki, R-Ottawa, said that although the La Salle County Coroner’s Office has long presented a case for having a county morgue, high taxes demand the board seek voter approval to fund it.

Znaniecki asked to see the results of a study on the costs and then asked Chairman Don Jensen, R-Deer Park, and La Salle County Clerk Jennifer Ebner to produce a timeline for getting a binding referendum on the November 2024 ballot.

“If we are to move forward on a morgue,” she said, “let’s get the true financial picture of what it would cost to build a morgue, as well [as] the yearly cost to maintain [it].

“Let’s present the above information to our voters so they may decide if they wish to pay the increase in taxes for such a project.”

La Salle County does not have a morgue, per se, but the County Board agreed to fund the establishment of a forensic center in Oglesby. The complex will at some point be fitted with a containment unit, but Coroner Rich Ploch and his staff still must travel across county lines, usually into McLean County, to conduct autopsies.

No action was taken at the meeting. A referendum was not on the board’s Thursday agenda, and Znaniecki spoke during the public comment period to avoid speaking out of order.

Although Znaniecki and others have expressed concerns about high taxes, La Salle County cut its tax rate. However, rising assessments mean taxpayers likely are to see an increase in the bottom line.

On Thursday, the La Salle County Board unanimously adopted a tax levy that means a projected tax rate of 96.8 cents. That’s a decline of about 3 cents.

Unfortunately, the rate cut likely will be offset by a big increase in assessments. Home values have risen, and that means writing a bigger check to the tax man, even with the rate cut.