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Our view: Let voters decide on 377 Board

Got the post-election blues?

Don’t worry, there’s another one right around the corner.

The Consolidated Municipal Election is April 9. If a primary election is needed, it will be held Feb. 26. That’s just three-and-a-half months away.

One item that might be on the April 9 ballot is a referendum asking McHenry County voters to create a new taxing district similar to the 708 Board, also known as the McHenry County Mental Health Board.

The Mental Health Board collects a levy from county property owners and distributes the money to agencies that provide services to residents with mental health issues.

With the state’s finances as tenuous as they are, some of the county’s social service agencies that provide programming for local residents with developmental disabilities are seeking a new revenue stream.

Officials from Pioneer Center for Human Services and Options and Advocacy asked the County Board’s Public Health and Human Services Committee to place a referendum question on the April ballot.

If approved, the referendum would create a new tax levy and a 377 Board to manage and disburse the new revenue. Human service advocates are proposing a tax rate of 10 cents per $100 in assessed valuation. For the owner of a $200,000 home who takes the homestead exemption, that would mean an increase of about $60 a year. Such a tax would generate about $10 million annually to support programs for the developmentally disabled.

There’s no doubt that the state’s dire financial picture is hurting local nonprofits that provide needed services. The state owes Pioneer Center $3 million for work already completed, for example, and is cutting back funding to human services overall.

At the same time, taxpayers also are hurting. And this might not be the only tax increase referendum to hit area ballots in the next few years. Taxpayers can’t pay for everything.

We need more information before we weigh in on whether we think voters should approve or deny a 377 Board referendum. But this is an issue that voters should be able to decide.

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