Divided McHenry County Board OKs small property tax increase in new levy

Mental Health Board gets funding increase but not as much as requested

McHenry County Board members during a Committee of the Whole meeting on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023.

The McHenry County Board narrowly passed its annual budget Tuesday night ahead of the county’s fiscal year starting Dec. 1.

The approved budget of about $247 million is very similar to the spending plan that was up for 30-day review, with a 1.95% increase in the levy, which is well below the 5% allowed under the tax cap and includes the capture of about $825,000 of new property growth in the county.

Board member Terri Greeno, R-Crystal Lake, has been vocal about her desire to keep the levy flat, and on Tuesday brought forth an amendment in a failed effort to do that.

Matt Kunkle, R-Algonquin, also supported the flat levy and seconded the motion that Greeno made.

“They’re dealing with inflation,” Kunkle said of McHenry County residents.

Board member Eric Hendricks, R-Lake in the Hills, agreed.

Mike Shorten, R-Crystal Lake, said he spent “a lot of time going through” the budget and would support a flat levy based on the feedback from constituents.

“While the flat levy failed, I will continue to remain vigilant to ensure that McHenry County continues to provide the quality, responsive services that our residents expect in a responsible, cost-effective manner,” Shorten wrote in a news release sent Tuesday night.

“It was very viable,” Hendricks said after the meeting regarding Greeno’s proposal.

The flat levy proposal was defeated 10-8, with members Lou Ness, D-Woodstock, Carolyn Campbell, D-Crystal Lake, Theresa Meshes, D-Fox River Grove, Kelli Wegener, D-Crystal Lake, Gloria Van Hof, D-Crystal Lake, Pamela Althoff, R-McHenry, Joe Gottemoller, R-Crystal Lake, Larry Smith, R-Harvard, Michael Skala, R-Huntley, and Brian Sager, R-Woodstock, opposed. Likewise, they all voted for the budget that passed.

Greeno, Hendricks, Shorten, Kunkle, John Reinert, R-Crystal Lake, Jim Kearns, R-Huntley, Carl Kamienski, R-Johnsburg, and Tracie Von Bergen, R- Hebron, all voted for the flat levy and against the budget that passed.

The entire County Board meeting, including the budget vote, took less than an hour and a half.

“This was the least contentious of the November meetings,” Meshes said.

She credited the budget process that Skala, the chair of the finance committee, oversaw to get the budget completed.

For his part, Skala said he was “proud of the work everybody” did over the course of the budget process.

“Staff and board members always take budgeting very seriously,” Skala said.

Gottemoller acknowledged that the budget has a slight increase in taxes but said he feels the county has done a good job over the years of keeping taxes down.

“I’d vote for it again,” Gottemoller said of the budget, adding that “we’re below the rate of inflation.”

The average annual tax increase for the county portion of the levy will be about $20 for a $300,000 home, county officials said.

The approved budget also includes a $525,000 increase for the county Mental Health Board, which originally asked for an additional $2.5 million, citing increased demand for services provided by agencies and nonprofits that receive support through the board.

The total levy of the Mental Health Board is now $10.975 million.

The flat levy proposal that was voted down also included the same amount of funding for mental health services.

“While I was initially hesitant to support an increase in mental health funding, after reviewing data provided to me by members of the Mental Health Board as well as listening to feedback from my constituents, I made the decision to support a reasonable increase that wouldn’t have negatively impact property taxes had the amended levy passed as well,” Shorten said.