Residents of Kane County could still see a property tax increase as part of the 2022 budget plan for the county.
A belated push to raise taxes emerged on Wednesday morning as several board members continued to sound the alarm bells over what they see as an unsustainable plan to balance a $ 10 million deficit by emptying county savings account and using federal COVID-19 relief money.
The vast majority of the county’s budget problems stem from years of increasing employee salaries, adding costs to the budget without finding new revenue to fund those costs. Despite this, several county department heads continue to denounce the difficulties in filling positions and the loss of employees to neighboring counties who pay better wages.
Board member Vern Tepe said the county board created the conundrum by not increasing the county property tax to deal with inflation. The council is allowed to do this annually without referendum approval from local voters. A decade of postponing those increases means the county lost $ 16 million it could have raised.
Tepe crafted a budget amendment that would increase the county’s share of property taxes by 1.4%, the maximum allowed to keep up with inflation. The additional tax would bring the county $ 750,000 in new money in 2022.
Tepe said not raising taxes, both this year and in the past, is a “failure” on the part of elected officials.
“I use the word ‘failure’ because I think it’s the duty of the board to provide the county with adequate funding,” Tepe said.
Failure to include a further property tax increase in the budget only digs a deeper hole, he said.
The entire county board is due for re-election in 2022. Incumbents may view a property tax increase as digging a hole with their constituents. They already have to answer for verbal commitments to another tax increase.
Budget 2022 contains the promise of an increase in the county’s gasoline tax of 2 cents per gallon. This tax increase is not in the actual 2022 budget. The board has already missed the window to institute a gasoline tax hike in early 2022, so the gasoline hike will be voted on separately in 2022.
If board members keep that promise, $ 1.8 million generated from the gas increase would offset the transfer of $ 2 million that would normally go to the Kane County Transportation Division for projects to infrastructure.
Two tax increases tied to one budget would be heavy ammunition for any candidate for re-election.
County board member Ken Shepro said he had already spent time justifying the increase in the gasoline tax, which equates to user fees, as a better alternative to his constituents that an increase in the property tax.
“If we were to increase the levy (property tax), I’m not sure I would support the increase in the gasoline tax,” Shepro said.
Other board members said they oppose adding a property tax increase to the budget so late in the process as it risks alienating other elected officials county officials who negotiated with council for months on budget cuts and additions.
Some board members have also said they want to wait for the results of ongoing studies of the county’s existing fees, salaries and operations to see the efficiency gains before increasing the local tax burden.
The county’s board of directors will take a final vote on the 2022 budget next Tuesday. Tepe will suggest that council vote on a budget amendment that would insert the property tax increase at that time.