Kane County taxpayers may get a break in their property taxes in 2012 in trade for delaying progress on a $39 million wish list of construction projects.
The county board's finance committee began 2012 budget deliberations Wednesday. County board Chairman Karen McConnaughay pitched a plan to cut the county's $2.54 million tax levy targeted specifically for capital projects down to $100,000.
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The plan was bereft of detail, but McConnaughay said the levy reduction would drop local property tax bills. Without cutting the levy, McConnaughay said taxpayers will actually pay more to the county this year.
"In these times, you simply cannot do that," McConnaughay said.
The impact to the county's budget means the county will rake in less revenue in 2012. But McConnaughay said the county won't need that money if the board agrees to not pursue any projects the capital levy would normally pay for.
The capital funds are typically used to pay for construction on county-owned land and facilities. In recent years, the county has also used the money to pay for items such as copy machines. Transportation-related construction projects are paid for with money from a different account.
"This board has been very fiscally conservative in its spending," McConnaughay said. "As a result, you have sufficient cash reserves."
Back in February, county board members prioritized a $39 million list of projects officials had hoped to tackle during the next five years. At the top of that list is an expansion of the judicial center, including a new parking garage. Opening the shell space in the county jail to add more room is also on the list.
Board members were told in February the county only had about $7 million in capital funds to address the list. The 2012 capital levy would have added to what the county has saved up.
But finance committee Chairman Jim Mitchell agreed with McConnaughay in saying more parking at the judicial center is not high on his list of expenses in the current economy.
It's possible the county could still begin to tackle some of that wish list. McConnaughay has said publicly she'd favor borrowing the bulk of the money, through bonds, to pursue most of the projects on the list.
But finance committee members said they want more detail on the impact of McConnaughay's proposal before they'll support it.
Board member John Hoscheit said he wants an analysis on how dropping the tax levy will affect the county's reserve funds, and therefore its credit rating. In contrast to the federal government, Kane County recently saw its bond rating improve to AA+.
Hoscheit said he also wants to know exactly how much property tax relief the proposal would create for an average homeowner, and is also not sure he likes the political ramifications of lowering a tax levy for one year only to increase it right back where it was the following year.
The full county board is up for re-election in 2012. McConnaughay is leaving the county to run for state Senate.