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Board likely to reject tax levy

GENEVA – The Kane County Board appears ready to reject an attempt supported by county officials to increase the amount the county might seek to collect in property taxes next year.

Wednesday, the Kane County Board Executive Committee – a committee that includes the chairmen of each of the County Board’s committees – rejected a measure recommended by the Finance Committee to increase the county’s property tax levy by 3 percent in 2013.

That measure had been included as part of a budget proposal for 2013 recommended by the Finance Committee last month.

While the County Board will not set its actual 2013 property tax levy until spring, the board cannot ask for more in property taxes than it spelled out in its annual budget.

The 2013 budget must be completed later this fall.

Illinois tax cap law permits local units of government to increase their annual property tax levies by 5 percent or the amount of increase in the consumer price index, or CPI. For the 2013 levy, that increase is 3 percent.

Should the levy be increased by 3 percent, it would have represented an increase of about $12 on the property tax bill of the owner of a home valued at $250,000. A similar percentage increase from a public school district could increase the same taxpayer’s bill by hundreds of dollars.

Supporters of the county levy increase, led by Finance Committee Chairman Jim Mitchell, R-North Aurora, believed including the levy increase in next year’s budget was needed to ensure the county could capture all of the tax money it is legally allowed to collect, particularly from new construction.

He said the County Board could revise the levy in March.

Kane County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay berated Mitchell and others on the board for considering the idea of a levy increase.

“This is not a joke,” McConnaughay said, directing her ire at Mitchell.

She noted property values have fallen for the past three years by about 6 percent to 7 percent a year in Kane County, leaving taxpayers less able to afford small tax increases.

“We haven’t seen this in our lifetimes, and now we’re going to grow government?” McConnaughay asked. “Are you kidding me?”

Mitchell countered that the levy request would fit with past county budgeting techniques. And board member John Hoscheit, R-St. Charles, said the county should not freeze the levy without identifying specific spending cuts.

“What we’re doing is mortgaging the future,” Hoscheit said.

But the majority of the Executive Committee members disagreed, voting to forward the proposed budget to the full County Board without a tax levy increase proposal.

The $233 million budget proposal includes a 2 percent pay raise for most nonunion, nonelected county employees and different raises for the county’s assistant state’s attorneys and public defenders.

Board members said those raises could be paid out of money the county already has on hand, in the form of “rainy day” contingency funds or specific fund surpluses.

“Until we use up our surpluses and our contingency funds, I’m not comfortable going to the taxpayers and asking for any kind of increase,” said board member Jesse Vazquez, D-Aurora.

The full County Board is expected to discuss the budget at its meeting Tuesday.

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