Kane County 2022 budget would lock in gas tax increase for next July

Residents would not see a property tax increase from the latest Kane County budget proposal, but they would be helping balance the 2022 budget every time they fill their gas tanks.

The board unanimously approved a draft budget Tuesday that balances out a projected deficit of more than $15 million for 2022 by slashing two-thirds of new hires requested by various departments, cutting a percentage of county employees, and spending down $10.5 million in reserves and COVID-19 federal relief money.

Multiple board members used the term “alarming” to describe the $10.5 million figure. It includes a total drain of the county’s property tax freeze protection fund. That’s an account that’s helped stave off substantive property tax increases for nearly a decade now.

County board member Dale Berman, who oversees the finance committee, said the spending down of the reserves is a triage approach that buys county officials a little more time.

“What we need to do is come up with a revenue stream that is going to make up for what we are taking out of reserves,” Berman said. “We really have to look at the future, but our problem, for now, is to address this budget.”

The budget does not include a property tax increase, though changes to property value do affect individual tax bills. The draft also forgoes a new retailers’ occupation tax, which would have imposed a 0.25% sales tax on retail items such as clothes, furniture and cars bought in the county.

But the budget sees a 6.28% increase in expenses in the account that funds the county’s day-to-day operations.

So, as of July 1, 2022, the county would increase its local sales tax on gas of 4 cents per gallon by 2 cents per gallon. Projections estimate that would rake in another $1 million for the county next year.

Several board members, many of whom are up for reelection in 2022, also grumbled about that plan. They ultimately voted to move forward with the draft budget.

County residents now have until Nov. 9 to tell county officials what they think about the budget plan before the board takes a final vote.