Dundee Township to sue Kane County to force mental health tax collection

Dundee Township residents who voted in support of a local property tax increase in March 2020 to fund mental health services may now have to await the results of a lawsuit to see if their new 708 mental health board gets the tax money.

Township trustees voted 3-1 Wednesday night to file a lawsuit against the Kane County clerk's office.

Clerk Jack Cunningham, upon the advice of the Kane County state's attorney's office, informed the township last month that his office would not collect the tax for the township. County officials believe the March 2020 referendum, approved with 63% of the vote, was not worded clearly enough to inform township residents a "yes" vote would increase their property taxes.

That leaves the township's new 708 Mental Health Board with no money to provide services for residents who need financial assistance to access mental health, addiction or developmental disability services. The lawsuit approved Wednesday night would seek to force the clerk to collect the tax and fund the township's 708 board.

Such 708 boards are common in the central part of Kane County, but they are nonexistent on the north end.

Dundee Township officials listened to more than an hour's worth of public comment from dozens of supporters of the 708 board, both from inside and outside the township, before agreeing to move ahead with the lawsuit. However, even the lawsuit seems to be on shaky footing.

Only one of the three township officials supporting the lawsuit, Sue Harney, will still be on the board following the April 6 election. The trustee who cast the lone "no" vote, Dick Ahrens, will still be on the new board. So will Trustee Ken Schaffer, who chose to abstain but gave no reason for doing so.

Further muddying the waters, Dundee Township Assessor Mike Bielak has sided with the county and publicly said he believes the tax increase is invalid.

"The people voted for something they were not fully informed about," Bielak said in a local Republican blog post. "The people were not correctly informed. End of story. The referendum will have to be voted on again."

If the new board, once seated, doesn't support the lawsuit the current trustees approved Wednesday, that would also make a redo of the referendum unlikely. The incoming township supervisor, Arin Thrower, ran as an independent but on a platform of no new taxes. So did Susan Romano, a new trustee.

Elgin Township is in a similar situation. Residents there also approved a property tax increase to create a 708 board with 67% of the vote in March 2020. But the clerk's office will also not collect that tax because of the same wording problem with the referendum.

In addition, there's going to be a major change in the composition of the Elgin Township board of trustees. There has not been a full township board meeting since the April election. Its new 708 board is set to meet at 6 p.m. to discuss how to address the county clerk's decision.

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