The new year means two referendum campaigns will kick into high gear in Kane County. One has the potential to lower the costs of living in your home. The other will make it more expensive but provide money for developmentally disabled residents to get access to social services.
The first informational campaign regards the county's second attempt to get voter approval for the county to potentially contract with a vendor other than ComEd for electricity services.
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Individuals already have the authority to select someone other than ComEd. But by combining the potential client pool of all the unincorporated residents, county officials hope to attract substantially lower electricity rates. Any resident who doesn't like the new company can opt out.
The actual savings, if any, won't be known unless voters give the county the authority to seek bids by voting in favor of the proposal. The county last asked for this authority in 2011, but voters said "no."
Any savings in electricity bills may help offset the property tax increase that would occur if voters approve the creation of a new countywide tax to assist developmentally disabled residents.
If voters give the go-ahead, the county board would have to form a new commission to set the tax rate and administer the funds. But the new tax could be seen as an outside force pushing county board Chairman Chris Lauzen to break his pledge of a flat county property tax unless he finds a way to cut other county taxes.
Kane County Board Vice Chairman Drew Frasz rejected that framing of the issue.
"I look at this as separate from the overall tax levy," Frasz said. "This would be a choice made by every voter in the county. I look at the tax levy situation as just the core services that the county is mandated to provide."
Frasz said he supports the tax increase because he believes the state has failed in its responsibility to provide adequate funding for the social services people with developmental disabilities need.
"I certainly understand some people have some concerns about paying more taxes," Frasz said. "I'm willing to pay a little more to help people who are less fortunate than I am."
Frasz said the logistics of forming the commission that would help decide exactly how much the disability tax would be have not been worked out. He said the correct increase would be less than some of the higher numbers other advocates of the new tax have espoused.
If voters approve the new tax, the county commission could authorize a levy of up to 0.1 percent of assessed property value. That would increase the property taxes for the owner of a $300,000 home by about $100.
Several other county board members, including John Hoscheit, Mike Donahue and Jennifer Laesch, are also providing public support for the tax increase. But at least one other public official, East Dundee Village Trustee Allen Skillicorn, is working to oppose the tax increase.
Skillicorn believes taxes are already too high in the county and another layer of government isn't needed to address the needs of the developmentally disabled.