Wheeling Township still refusing to levy tax for mental health board

Despite legislation that removed potential legal obstacles to funding its new mental health board, Wheeling Township officials continue to insist they cannot levy a voter-approved tax without another referendum.

Township Supervisor Kathy Penner said she and the township board are leaning on the advice of their attorney, Kenneth Florey. That means the new mental board can continue to meet, but won’t have the funding to support its mission— assisting local agencies that address mental health issues in the community.

Township voters in 2022 approved a referendum to create the mental health panel and a new property tax to fund it.

However, Florey has told township leaders that the ballot question lacked required language informing voters of the impact of the new tax. As a result, he said, levying without another referendum would expose the township to costly tax challenges.

State lawmakers addressed the issue this fall, passing legislation they said cleared the way for townships to levy the tax without another referendum.

Four other townships that passed similar measures in 2022 — Addison, Lisle, Naperville and Schaumburg — are moving forward as a result. Wheeling Township remains the lone holdout.

Mental health advocates say township leaders are flouting the will of the voters.

“You seem to be doing everything you can to obstruct the process and deny the residents of Wheeling Township mental health, substance abuse and developmental services that are shown time and time again are desperately needed,” Hugh Brady, who serves on the board of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Northwest Suburbs Chicago, told the township board last week.

Florey argued the corrective legislation from the General Assembly is “ex post facto” and cannot change past actions, only those that occur after the law takes effect.

But one of the sponsors of the legislation, state Rep. Dan Didech, said Wheeling Township is “either receiving faulty advice from their attorney or is directing their attorney to give them faulty advice.”

“Ex post facto legislation is prohibited by the Constitution. And that is legislation that criminalizes an act that took place before the legislation was passed. This is not a criminal matter. It has absolutely nothing to do with ex post facto,” the Democrat from Buffalo Grove said.

“The General Assembly is the legislative body in the State of Illinois. We set the rules on what referenda are valid and not valid, and we have decided that this was a valid referenda,” he added.

  Hugh Brady, a member of the board of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Northwest Suburbs Chicago, addressed the Wheeling Township board last week. Steve Zalusky/
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