County board to hike gas tax, not property tax

By Gregory Harutunian for Chronicle Media

The McHenry County Board approved a 3.3 cents-per-gallon tax increase, driving the overall tax to 8 cents per gallon, during its Sept. 19 session. The increase is set to take effect Jan. 1.

The county anticipates adding an estimated $3 million to its coffers with the increase.

The choice for board members came down to raising the property tax levy for the coming year or increasing the gasoline sales tax. Gas tax revenues are also a component of the county’s annual fiscal year budget, which runs from Dec.1-Nov. 30.

“The gas tax will be used for purchasing items that need replacement such as snowplows,” said District 4 board member Joe Gottemoller. “Everything needs to be upgraded or replaced, every 15 years. Snowplows, for instance, have doubled in price … if they were ordered today, delivery wouldn’t be until next summer.

“The Motor Fuel Tax allotment, the gas tax, is forwarded back from the state,” he said. “It’s used to fund other expenses in the county budget’s general fund. To meet those expenses requires a steady stream of revenue.”

The county board discussed the issue at the meeting and wanted to avoid raising its portion of the annual property tax levy.

According to the Illinois Policy Institute, McHenry County ranked fourth in the state, and 35th overall nationally in the highest median property taxes in 2017. The state of Illinois ranks second in the nation for the highest property tax rate in the nation in 2023.

They also stated that this year, McHenry is ranked second in the state with a $250,000 single-family home being assessed at $5,226 annually. Lake County is listed as the highest property tax rate in the state with $6,285 being assessed on a $250,000 single-family residence.

The majority amount of the property taxes, calculated through the equalized assessed valuation rate, goes to various school districts.

“Since 2012, the county has reduced its end of the overall property tax levy dramatically,” said Gottemoller. “This is the first tax from the county in 13 years. I was given an estimate of up to $1.5 million extra that would come from the increased gas tax. Without that, it would have resulted in raising property taxes, which is what we are trying to avoid.”

The county initially authorized a 4 cent-per-gallon motor fuel tax in 1990. Nearly two decades later, the state legislature tied the MFT to the consumer price index. The CPI reflects the inflation rate, measuring the average change in costs paid by consumers over a specified period of time. The county’s gas tax rate is currently at 4.7-cents per gallon.

“Well, Wisconsin isn’t that far away from us,” said Richmond resident, Chuck Fordham. “They’re always cheaper than Illinois, for now.”