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Referendum on levy for disability funding nixed

GENEVA – Voters in Kane County will not be given the chance in April to decide whether to pay more in taxes to fund services for county residents with developmental disabilities.

Thursday, the County Board Executive Committee – a committee that consists of those chairing the county’s various committees – voted 6-4 against sending a referendum question on the matter to the full board.

The committee vote effectively forces supporters to wait until the 2014 primary election.

The matter was brought to the County Board by a group called Show You Care Kane, a committee of county residents and representatives of local organizations providing services to those with disabilities in Kane County.

Under the measure proposed, the county would create a special property tax levy of up to 0.1 percent in Kane County to raise up to $12.8 million in new property taxes to fund local disability services.

The levy could have increased property taxes by about $60 a year for the owner of a home valued at $182,000, and about $100 a year for the owner of a $300,000 home.

The owner of a home valued at $300,000 in Kane County typically paid about $7,700 to $8,900 in property taxes in 2012, mostly to school districts, according to information posted on the website of the Kane County treasurer.

Since November, Show You Care Kane had amassed about 12,000 signatures to place the question on the April ballot. But that fell about 7,000 signatures short of the required number, prompting the group to turn to the County Board to place it on the ballot.

The majority of the Executive Committee, however, did not support the measure for various reasons.

Some said they wished to wait for a report expected in coming weeks from the county’s Mental Health Advisory Board, which is expected to recommend changes in how the county can improve services to those dealing with mental illness, substance abuse and developmental disabilities.

Other County Board members said the referendum should wait until 2014, when voter turnout could be larger.

And others said they could not vote for anything that may result in a tax increase.

“I cannot put any more burden on our taxpayers,” said County Board member Barbara Wojnicki, R-Campton Hills.

Others on the committee spoke in favor of the proposal, noting the County Board was not voting to raise taxes but to let voters decide whether to create the new levy.

County Board member John Hoscheit, R-St. Charles, said the County Board would have the power to limit the impact on taxpayers while providing needed money to organizations that have suffered under state budget cuts.

He said it was likely that the mental health board would return a report calling for more funding for these services.

“But the only way we’re going to help is in the form of a levy, like this,” Hoscheit said.

Patrick Flaherty, an Aurora lawyer who spoke for the group, said Show You Care Kane will return to its strategy of collecting petition signatures, bypassing the County Board.

“We will get the necessary signatures, and get it on the ballot,” Flaherty said. “And it will be despite the County Board.”

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