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Taxpayer group urges voters to reject local referenda

Published: Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 11:37 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 11:53 p.m. CDT

A Chicago-based taxpayer group with a national reach is working to defeat two referenda in Huntley and Johnsburg that the group’s president says enrich local bureaucrats and increase property taxes on residents.

Jim Tobin, president of Taxpayers United of America, said his group is supplying current and former members in both McHenry County towns with fliers and information meant to drum up resistance against referenda proposed by the Huntley Park District and Johnsburg District 12 on the March 18 primary ballot.

Johnsburg school officials, meanwhile, have said the criticisms levied by Taxpayers United are off base.

“They should vote against them if they want to save on property taxes,” Tobin said. “If they want property tax increases, they should vote yes to benefit the bureaucrats.”

Huntley Park District has proposed an $18.75 million construction bond referendum that would allow officials to expand district services and create a new indoor turf facility.

District 12 has proposed a referendum that would allow officials to issue up to $41 million in new bonds to finance building improvements and maintenance needs.

If voters approved both proposals, their property tax bills would remain at their current levels. Property tax bills would decrease slightly, if voters in both towns rejected the referenda and allowed existing bonds to retire.

Along with Huntley and Johnsburg, Taxpayers United is working with local members to try to defeat more than a half-dozen referendum proposals in communities across the state this primary season, Tobin said.

The fliers being distributed in Huntley and Johnsburg highlight how residents in both towns are taking home less pay and then detail how a majority of property tax dollars go to pay “lavish” salaries and pensions for park district and school district employees.

Although the referenda won’t directly go to salary and benefits, the proposals speak to public officials’ inability to live within taxpayers’ means, Tobin said.

District 12 Superintendent Dan Johnson said the criticism is off base and that the referendum would go toward improving the district’s infrastructure for students.

Under the proposal, Johnsburg taxpayers will not see property taxes increase from current levels, he said.

“Our goal is to educate our community and keep them informed and get them facts, so they can make the best decision ... I know it sounds like a broken record but our emphasis is getting residents the facts,” Johnson said.

Huntley Park District officials declined comment, although they added an informative page to the district’s website on Friday that explains their referendum to residents.

Founded in 1976, Taxpayers United started as a taxpayer advocate focused on Illinois policy. The group has since expanded its membership to most Midwestern states and some coastal states.

Since forming, the group has helped defeat nearly 200 “property tax increase” referenda, Tobin said. He predicted that referenda in Huntley and Johnsburg will be defeated on March 18 if voter turnout in both towns reach the 50th percentile.

“If the fliers circulate widely, then the referendum will be defeated,” Tobin said.

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