The main complaint we hear when discussing issues with neighbors and friends is rising taxes. Agreed. Here in Illinois we are getting killed by high taxes. While Kane County controls less than 1/10th of your local property tax bill, we continue to do everything within our power to minimize the burden placed on our residents. While Illinois is in financial crisis, Kane County's sound fiscal policies have minimized debt while picking up much of the slack created by the absence of a state budget.
When reviewing my tax bill, our family pays roughly $400 annually to the County and Forest Preserve combined. What programs are funded through our $400? Here are just a few:
- The Office of the Sheriff and County Jail
- Kane County Court Systems including the Office of the State's Attorney and Public Defender
- Public Health and Animal Control
- Kane County Department of Transportation (roads & bridges)
- Kane County Zoning and Development including storm water remediation
- Kane County Recycling and Preservation Efforts
- Forest Preserves and County Campgrounds
Despite lifting the freeze to capture new construction, the average Kane County tax payer will not see an increase in the Kane County or Forest Preserve portions of their tax bill. To the contrary, your aggregate tax bill from our two governmental bodies have decreased this year with the 2017 budget. Look at your bill line item by line item. Again, the figures used for this article are taken directly from our tax bill. The Elgin portion of the 19th District will vary slightly since its fire protection is incorporated within the municipal portion of the tax bill..
Paying Our Bills
Unlike the State of Illinois and the federal government, Kane County continues to pay down its debt year after year. How do we do this? Its not easy, but Kane County is committed to keeping our promise to future generations. Unlike other levels of government, we refuse to leave our children owing millions. In 2009 Kane County undertook the construction of the new jail on our judicial campus on Route 38 in Geneva. At the time, the county's total general bond obligation was just under $120 Million. Today, our total general bond obligation is under $40 Million! While other levels of government continue to rack up debt and watch as their ratings fall to junk bond status, Kane County continues to reduce its debt and maintain a AAA rating.
How have we done this? Through sound fiscal management and practical business sense. Kane County reduced our debts by taking advantage of the current market and refinancing bonds for lower interest rates. We are currently reviewing the possibility of restructuring our future pension obligation to pay the balance in advance in order to save millions in future interest payments. Most importantly, we continue to hold our departments and elected officials accountable.
For the last several years Kane County has maintained a frozen tax levy. While we only control a small fraction of your property taxes, we do everything in our power to minimize this burden, and stretch each dollar to its limit. The costs of inflation were absorbed within our budget through the growth within our borders. Economic development allowed us to grow our economy, but user fees were increased to offset specific services.
Today we are hearing more and more proposals coming from the Illinois General Assembly that would allow the State to free up funds for their increased spending by shifting more and more burden on the lower levels of government. Illinois is looking to hold back funds collected on behalf of the County forcing us to find new revenue to fund such important services as child support enforcement. They continue to adopt unfunded mandates such as higher juror fees or criminal sentencing mandates, without aiding the County in finding the money to make the payments. While some of these programs have merit, the state isn't considering how or even who will pay for them (Spoiler Alert... its the taxpayer).
But the County isn't alone. Our schools and social service agencies are losing funds for essential services. They are being forced to find new ways to continue these programs while at the same time balancing their own budget. Our workers are constantly being lied to with promises of retirement benefits which the state has no intention or ability of paying. There is a reason Illinois' bond rating is plummeting.
Oh - and don't forget that the state is also seriously considering increasing your income tax by roughly 66% for good measure.
Let's put this all into perspective. This situation is basically like a parent robbing their child's college savings account in order to buy an in-ground pool, while at the same time watching the roof on their home collapse from neglect. That's logical, right?
This shouldn't be about passing the buck, or balancing your budget on the backs of others. We are elected by our neighbors to lead - not politic. As your representative for the 19th District I will continue to be a good steward of the taxpayer dollar, and insure that Kane County provides the services mandated by law in the most effective and cost efficient way possible.