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posted: 10/17/2012 5:25 PM

No inflation increase in McHenry Co. proposed budget

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Next year's proposed budget for McHenry County calls for no cost-of-living increase in the property tax levy while giving raises to union and nonunion staff, a balance that the county board first gave a nod to back in July.

The county would collect about $2.3 million less in revenues than allowed under the tax cap law, officials said. The tax levy does account for new growth in the county. The board Tuesday night approved putting the budget on display for public review until its expected adoption Nov. 20.

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Current projections for fiscal year 2013, which begins Dec. 1, show a balanced general fund budget of $86.3 million, with a total budget of just more than $252 million, or about $4.6 million less than last year's approved budget. Included are 2.5-percent raises for nonunion staff, union raises as per contract, and estimates regarding the recently unionized Valley Hi nursing home staff.

Much of the budget's decrease over last year comes from paying off bonds early, said finance committee chairman Scott Breeden. The proposed budget conservatively projects lower-than-anticipated sales tax revenues, which should in turn cover any unforeseen expenses, he said.

"We have an average of 2.5-percent increase in salaries and we had a major increase in medical (expenses). We've been able to absorb that and lower our budget expectations. It wasn't easy," he said.

The McHenry County Conservation District also gave up an increase in next year's property tax levy, Breeden pointed out. "I wish the school districts would take a good, real hard look at that possibility," he said.

Andy Dylak, finance director for the conservation district, said the district is foregoing about $242,000 in inflation increase and new property growth despite a nearly 20-percent increase in land holdings since 2007. The district's general fund budget for this year is about $9.6 million, he said.

"The board decided to do as much as we could to help alleviate homeowners in McHenry as the value of their homes goes down and they are watching property taxes go up," he said, adding, "It would be nice if some of the bigger tax leviers could follow suit, and could give real relief to the taxpayers.

The county represents about 8 percent of the average property tax bill, while the conservation district is less than 2 percent, officials said.

A copy of the proposed county budget can be found at the County Clerk's office, 2200 N. Seminary Ave. in Woodstock, or on the county's website at co.mchenry.il.us under "quick links."

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