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County Board OKs less spending in budget

GENEVA – Kane County has enacted a spending plan and property tax levy that does not increase property taxes in 2013.

Thursday, meeting in special session, the County Board voted 17-3 to approve next year’s $213.7 million budget.

The County Board also voted 16-4 to enact a property tax levy that essentially will collect no more taxes for government operations than the county government collected last year.

Total spending will decrease a little less than 2 percent in 2013. And the county will seek to collect about $53.89 million in property taxes in 2013, compared to $53.96 million in 2012.

While some on the County Board believed county government needed time to further refine the spending and tax plans, the majority disagreed, moving to pass both measures in advance of the November elections.

The County Board managed to not increase the overall tax levy, despite an 11 percent increase in the amount the county will need to pay in 2013 to the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund to help pay for the pensions of retired county workers and officials.

Overall, the county expects to pay about $7 million in 2013 into IMRF, an increase of about $800,000 from last year. County finance officials said the increase was required by state law, and the county will need to pay more to fund the pensions as a result of poor investment performances.

The county government largely balanced out that increase by decreasing the amount of property taxes it will ask to collect to fund costs for insurance and outside legal counsel.

The county’s insurance liability levy will decline by about $500,000, or 15 percent, in 2013.

Some County Board members questioned why the board should increase the county levy that specifically designates certain property taxes for the IMRF pensions, rather than seeking to cut spending elsewhere to cover the costs.

County Board member Melisa Taylor, R-Sugar Grove, was one of seven board members to vote against the IMRF levy increase. She conceded the county had no choice but to pay the increased cost because the county’s contributions to IMRF are mandated by state law.

“But I don’t see why the default position should be that we should just turn to the taxpayers to pay it,” Taylor said.

Taylor also insinuated during the meeting that the increase in the pensions are largely the fault of the administration of outgoing Kane County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay.

After the meeting, McConnaughay noted under her administration, the county has cut its payroll, saving millions of dollars in future pension costs in the process. And McConnaughay said using tax dollars that should go to county services to pay pensions for retired workers would lead to financial problems.

“It’s bad financial policy to drain your cash reserves off because you’re mandated to fund a state-mandated obligation,” McConnaughay said. “That’s how you go bankrupt.”

McConnaughay, a Republican, of St. Charles, who is running unopposed for the Illinois state Senate, said she believes the answer to the problems lies in pension reform at the state government level, not in local governments deciding on their own to cut spending elsewhere to cover the costs.

Because she is poised to leave county government after eight years in office, McConnaughay said she is seeking advice on what to do about her pension. But she pledged that she would not “double-dip.”

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