The McHenry County Board authorized an 11.2 percent reduction to the property tax levy, and Chairman Jack Franks is calling on other local governments to follow suit.
The county board last week unanimously approved levying $71.8 million in property taxes for 2017 -- an $8 million decline over the previous year -- which will provide residents some tax relief without eliminating services or employees, Franks said. The measure exceeds his campaign promise and the county board's goal to cut property taxes by 10 percent.
"Politics is not about winning, but about using the power vested in us by our constituents to improve their lives," Franks said. "There's not a more important thing that we can do in regards to that except to bring down the outrageous property taxes and bring them under control."
With the county's levy making up only about 10 percent of an average property tax bill, however, Franks says other local taxing bodies also should be held accountable.
The law and government committee next week is expected to consider a resolution that would ask voters whether school districts should reduce their levies by at least 10 percent by 2020. If passed along to and approved by the county board, the measure would put the advisory referendum question on the ballot during the March primary election.
The focus on school districts is just a start, Franks said, as they generally account for the largest part of a property tax bill. He's also encouraging municipalities, park districts, townships and other agencies to trim their unnecessary expenses.
"We're not cutting our levy so you can ask for more from your taxpayers and not feel guilty about it," Franks said. "McHenry County residents are being taxed out of their homes, and the time for excuses and piecemeal measures is over."
Board member Christopher Spoerl, a law and government committee member, said he understands both sides of the issue, having previously served as school board president at Cary Elementary District 26.
"But the property tax burden that residents face is quickly becoming unsustainable," he said in a statement. "Something has to change."
It's difficult to tell how the county's levy decline will affect residents' tax bills next year, County Administrator Peter Austin said, pointing to varying factors such as assessments, exemptions and the other taxing bodies. Regardless, he said, the difference won't be astronomical.
"I don't think we've ever said this is going to be some windfall for property taxpayers," he said. "But the board does have a big soap box. ... It's that kind of leadership role that's maybe as important as the reduction itself."