McHenry County Board shoots down Franks' advisory tax freeze referendum request
An almost totally Republican board in McHenry County has blocked a property tax freeze advisory referendum from appearing on the April 4 ballot by citing a procedural issue.
Newly elected Board Chairman Jack D. Franks (D-Marengo) immediately blasted the move as naked, partisan politics, stressing that voters now will not be heard on an issue that rates as critical to many of them.
“The only people hurt by this are the people we’re sworn to protect,” he told the McHenry Times. “Every tax player in this county should feel violated.”
By a 17-7 vote, the overwhelmingly Republican board concluded that the proposed ordinance should first go through committee before appearing on the ballot, as is proper protocol.
Franks, the first popularly elected chairman in the county, had countered that a later deadline date for local governments to be able to put referendums on the ballot had qualified the measure for a public vote without the issue having passed through committee. He also pointed out that under the exact same circumstance board members recently elected to allow a vote on an Algonquin County-related tax increase.
While conceding that board rules allow for certain “urgent” issues to get a vote without passing through committee, McHenry County Board member Craig Wilcox argued the tax freeze referendum did not meet that standard.
Several other Republican leaders also ridiculed the measure as a piece of “feel-good nonsense,” drawing attention to the fact the board has now held the county government’s levy flat for five years running.
At a recent Committee of the Whole meeting, Franks openly campaigned for a public vote, and even drew some Republican support on the issue. The referendum question would have directly asked voters whether local taxing bodies should require voter permission to raise taxes by any amount.
During that same session, Franks conceded that board members had a right to vote their conscience, but chastised them for avoiding taking a public stance by turning all the attention to a non-substantive, procedural matter.
A recent study found McHenry County’s property tax burden to be the 29th highest by county in the country, with Illinois accounting for at least the second-highest overall tax burden of any state in the nation.
"It's no wonder our taxes rate are so high," Franks said. "Everything here is done in the shadows."
Franks added having the issue removed from the ballot couldn't come at a more inopportune time for area taxpayers.
“This would have been up for a vote at the same time the politicians who set the levies were on the ballot,” he said. “Most of the people who cast these votes were highly partisan, for them to hide behind some sort of procedural rule just makes it more stinging.”
Franks, predecessor, Republican Joe Gottemoller of Crystal Lake, strongly rejected his contention that partisan politics ruled the order of the day.
Gottemoller stressed not only that the county has held taxes flat for years, he added that to date it’s been the only county to pass a resolution backing the “Turnaround Agenda” proposed by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who remains locked in a two-year budget stalemate with the Democrat-controlled state legislature led by House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago).
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