Property tax relief
The current McHenry County Board, under the direction of Democratic Chairman Jack Franks, has shown leadership and cut their property tax levy by over 10% for the coming fiscal year. Yet, the county portion of our property tax bill is barely 10% of the total bill. Now is the time for the County Board to continue showing leadership by further exploring ways to consolidate units of government within the county or collaborate with other units of government within the county. Collaborative purchasing and operations will bring better economies of scale and allow other taxing bodies (school districts, townships, municipalities) to further lower their tax burden on taxpayers.
The current McHenry County Clerk has initiated an aggressive “poll consolidation” plan, citing increased costs and security concerns. Yet, her plan has been conceived in secrecy and mired by misinformation. Initial research has shown that few (if any) school districts were consulted during the development of the plan and not allowed to offer alternatives. A majority of the eliminated polling places (20 out of 38) are in Crystal Lake and 50% of the eliminated polling places tend to vote Democratic. The current County Board must shine a light on the current plan to ensure honest and open elections in 2018. The future County Board must provide closer oversight to the County Clerk to ensure no actions of perceived voter suppression occur in McHenry County.
Funding critical county services
As stated earlier, the current County Board showed leadership by lowering the county tax levy by over 10% for the coming year. Remaining funds must be focused on meeting the needs of county residents that have been (or will be) negatively impacted by reductions in state and federal support. The Health Department will bear some impact as county residents begin to lose health insurance coverage. The Mental Health Board will bear some impact as the opioid epidemic continues to tear through the county. Both of these departments must maintain their funding to ensure adequate and effective services to all county residents.
Ending the federal ICE contract
Twenty years ago, the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office entered into a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the US Marshall’s to house federal detainees. While the contract served a purpose then (complete the 4th floor of the jail and utilize it until the county needed it to house county detainees), it is clear that the contract has outlived its usefulness. McHenry County has now become dependent on those funds, but has not been able to clearly document that the contract is cost-effective. The current (and future) County Board must conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis to determine the continued viability of the contract. As part of the analysis, the viability of other options for the space must also be considered. Other options include renting the space to other jails, converting the space to a juvenile detention space, or discontinuing use of the space (and the cost of maintaining it vacant).