Voters gain insight on Mental Health Board sales tax forum

League of Women Voters forum at McHenry County College didn’t endorse which way to vote

Audience members listen to information about the McHenry County Mental Health Board sales tax referendum Feb. 22, 2024

While polls have opened and mail-in ballots have been sent for March’s primary election, voters continue to gain insight on the McHenry County Mental Health Board sales tax referendum.

If the referendum passes, the property tax levy earmarked for the mental health board will be eliminated. The McHenry County Board allocated almost $11 million of its levy this past year to the Mental Health Board, and officials estimate a sales tax could generate $12 to $13 million annually, according to an FAQ online on the county’s website.

McHenry County Board member Michael Skala, R- Huntley, said it would take a referendum to add the Mental Health Board levy back in if it’s taken out.

“Once it’s removed, it’s removed,” Skala said.

Skala and fellow McHenry County Board member Carolyn Campbell, D- Crystal Lake, spoke about the board’s decision to place the referendum on the ballot during a League of Women Voters forum Thursday at McHenry County College.

The forum focused on being informational, and signs and literature urging both a “yes” vote and a “no” vote were present.

Campbell said during the forum it was “bipartisan” to have the referendum on the ballot. Skala and Campbell were among the McHenry County Board members who approved placing it on the March primary ballot.

One attendee asked why it will appear in March and not November. When the County Board voted, a vote to put it on in November failed.

“We had that debate,” Skala said.

Another question asked if the Mental Health Board could be funded through both property tax and sales tax.

Skala said the board theoretically could keep the levy. However, “I don’t know why we would do that.”

Campbell said the board did not want the appearance of double taxation.

Suzanne Hoban of Family Health Partnership said her clinic focuses on primary care for the uninsured, and “primary care has a lot to do with mental health.”

“They rely on the providers that are funded by the Mental Health Board,” Hoban said about how the referendum will affect those without insurance.

Missy Funk, who attended the forum, said she wanted more information on the issue. She is undecided on how she will vote.

“I just wanted to take it all in,” Funk said.

Ed Gogol already has cast his ballot.

“I already voted. I voted for it,” Gogol said, adding that an increase in funding for the Mental Health Board was the deciding reason. “The need is vast.”

Officials stressed, however, that the decision to change the funding structure is in the hands of the people.

Voters can vote early, by mail or in person on Election Day. Those who don’t want to declare a party affiliation can weigh in on the referendum by asking for a nonpartisan ballot.

“To me, it’s an option,” Skala said. “I don’t know if it’s better or worse.”