Kane forest district raises taxes, county tax hike likely to follow

In what may be a preview of a more costly tax hike, Kane County Forest Preserve District commissioners have approved the maximum allowable property tax increase available to them for the 2024 budget.

With all 24 commissioners voting, only five cast "no" votes.

That's significant because forest preserve commissioners also serve as Kane County Board members. The county board is weighing its first maximum property tax hike in more than a decade. However, the financial implications for residents' tax bills are much different.

The increase approved for the forest preserve district accounts for a cost of living increase and the addition of new property coming onto the tax roll. The decision will bring about $525,000 in new money to the district. District staff estimates the impact to the owner of a $230,000 home in Kane County will be an additional $1.82 property tax increase - roughly the cost of a loaf of bread.

In committee, commissioner Bill Lenert noted he opposes most tax increases. However, he supported the forest preserve's tax hike because of the relatively low financial impact on residents and the need to attract and maintain staff to care for the open space the district manages.

Lenert has long signaled he is not a fan of increasing property taxes at the county board level. But with only five "no" votes on the forest preserve tax hike, Lenert will have a tough task in finding the 13 total votes needed to prevent the county from raising tax bills.

The pending county property tax hike could see homeowners paying as much as $17 more on their tax bills depending on where they live. The average resident paid $260 in property taxes to the county last year.

Both the forest preserve and the county represent relatively small portions of what feeds into residents' property tax bills. Money paid to local school districts accounts for most of those bills.

The county board will vote on the 2024 budget and pending property tax increase this Tuesday.

The tax increase is on the table as a way for the county to decrease reliance on its reserves and fund salary increases for county employees. As proposed, the 2024 county budget would use more than $10 million in savings to balance out the expected spending.

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