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Vote tabled for raising forest preserve tax levy

GENEVA – The Forest Preserve District of Kane County Commission on Tuesday decided to table a measure that would levy taxes to cover staff raises.

John Hoscheit, president of the commission, said levying taxes by 1.7 percent for the 2014-15 fiscal year would help raise $150,000 for a 2 percent raise for about 75 employees, as well as cover expenses such as higher fuel, health insurance and utility costs.

He said that would cost the average household 83 cents a year.

During a public comment period, Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen asked commissioners to consider voting no or delaying the vote to weigh other funding options to close the $150,000 gap until more of the county’s debt service will be paid off.

Hoscheit said employees’ duties have been stretched as the forest preserve district has acquired an additional 2,000 acres of land since 2011.

He said no new staff members would be hired with money from the tax levy.

Other commissioners suggested using riverboat casino money, money from the county’s fund balance or farm lease funds to cover the expenses, but said none would be long-term solutions.

Another option would be to cut services and staff.

Hoscheit said taxpayers can expect some reprieve in 2016 and 2017, when the county is done paying off two major components of its debt service.

He said an average household can expect to save $40 annually in property taxes in 2016, and $48 in property taxes in 2017.

The proposal drew mixed reactions from commissioners, including Barb Wojnicki, who called the county’s open space “the ultimate tax cap,” and Brian Pollock, who said his constituents repeatedly asked him not to raise property taxes.

Commissioner Joseph Haimann noted that taxpayers are struggling, and the large increase in families using local food pantries is proof of that.

Commissioners ultimately decided to table the matter for 30 days and come back with alternate proposals for how to raise the funds.

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