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Kane County committee OKs 3 percent property tax hike

GENEVA – The County Board soon could decide whether to put in writing an intention to collect more in property taxes next year – and whether to leave it to newly elected board members to reduce that amount come spring.

Tuesday, the County Board Finance and Budget Committee recommended the full County Board approve a budget that calls for the county to increase its property tax levy by 3 percent, the maximum amount allowed by law this year.

Should such a tax levy increase ultimately be approved, it could increase the tax bill owed by county taxpayers owning a house with an assessed value of about $250,000 about $5 to $12 next year, with an average increase of about $7 a year, according to county finance officials.

However, while the budget, which must be enacted by November, would state the county’s spending and taxing intentions, the actual tax levy on which that budget is based will not be acted upon until spring.

So, members of the Finance Committee said they believe the current County Board should leave it to the next County Board – which will be seated after the November elections – to decide whether to leave the property tax levy alone or scale it back.

Finance Committee Chairman Jim Mitchell, R-North Aurora, said the next County Board will know more about the county’s financial footing than the current board does.

He noted the County Board is still waiting to learn how much Kane County will have collected in sales taxes and its portion of the state income tax.

“It means that [the County Board] will actually know what you’re levying for,” Mitchell told the committee.

Other committee members also backed the levy increase.

“All we’re doing is setting a budget,” said board member Cathy Hurlbut, R-Elgin. “We can’t ask for more than what we budget.”

The levy increase will not be needed to fund raises for county employees, committee members said.

Instead, the Finance Committee backed a proposal to use the county’s general contingency fund to pay for a 2 percent increase for most of the county’s nonunion, nonelected employees and for raises specifically for the county’s assistant state’s attorneys and public defenders.

In all, those raises would total about $1.06 million that would come from money the county already has on hand, Mitchell said.

While stressing the levy increase will not be used to pay for raises, committee members did not state why the levy increase might be needed.

Mitchell said that will be discussed by the full County Board when it takes up the matter, perhaps as soon as Oct. 9.

That lack of specificity caused at least one committee member, Christina Castro, D-Elgin, to question the need to increase the levy at all.

“When I talk to constituents, they say they can’t even take another $5,” Castro said. “I’m OK with using the money out of contingency to pay for these raises, but I’m totally opposed to raising the levy.”

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