JOHNSBURG – The argument percolating inside McHenry Township about the fate of the road district and whether it should rest with voters at the polls has featured a special guest sitting in the front row: McHenry Township Assessor Mary Mahady – a Democrat running for a seat in Illinois Senate District 32.
State Sen. Pamela Althoff, R-McHenry, has served in that chair since 2003, but she hopes to return to local politics, as she’s bidding for a District 4 seat on the McHenry County Board. While Althoff campaigns for her homecoming, Mahady hopes to make the journey to Springfield on a campaign to fix the county’s property tax problem from a political post at the state level.
As assessor, Mahady has watched McHenry Township trustees duke it out with the highway commissioner, supervisor and outspoken residents about whether a referendum should go to voters on their November election ballots asking whether the road district should be eliminated, which would roll all road responsibilities under the township umbrella.
Trustees already have voted down the measure once this year, and they plan to hold a special meeting Tuesday to vote again.
From Mahady’s view as she sits next to other officials in front of the township’s meeting hall, the way the process has unfolded is disappointing.
“I’m disgusted,” Mahady said after Thursday’s meeting, where Trustees Mike Rakestraw and Bob Anderson agreed to call a special meeting Tuesday to take another vote on the referendum. “If you’re going to push an idea based on what you say will bring a tax savings, you need to have some facts to back that up. We haven’t seen that. Where are the facts to back that up?”
McHenry Township trustees voted down the measure Jan. 11. The 3-2 vote brought to a standstill the consolidation efforts of Anderson, who began his fight to abolish townships three decades ago.
The arguments from both sides have been polarizing.
Proponents – including state Rep. David McSweeney, who filed a bill to allow residents to abolish McHenry County townships with a majority vote and is outspoken about his stance that consolidation is the first step to cutting property taxes – are adamant that the voters should decide what their government looks like.
Opponents – including state Rep. Steve Reick, who filed a bill to require a study to prove there would be cost savings before any referendum goes to voters – contend that there should be strong, independent proof to back up consolidation.
To Mahady, there has been a lack of transparency hobbling the plight of McHenry Township officials pushing forward their consolidation agenda with haste.
“They’re not really clear about what their goal is in doing this,” Mahady said. “Now they want to rush into this vote.”
At Thursday night’s meeting, Highway Commissioner James Condon pressed Anderson and Rakestraw, who originally voted against the referendum, about why the trustees are in such a hurry to get the question out to voters.
Anderson and Rakestraw did not provide Condon an answer.
“They’re going to vote on it to put a referendum without addressing the questions their constituents have asked them,” Mahady said. “That’s very disturbing to me.”
The Northwest Herald could not reach Anderson or Rakestraw for comment Friday, but their arguments have been well documented.
The attack on townships and road districts has intensified in recent years. Voters and homeowners tired of high property taxes and the state’s worsening economic climate have been looking to cut anything from anywhere they can. More and more, governments and politicians are boarding the consolidation bandwagon.
It’s dangerous territory, Mahady said. Residents most concerned with property taxes could latch onto any idea that promises lower taxes – even if there’s no proof that cost savings will hit home.
“People will believe that because everybody wants to have their taxes lower,” Mahady said. “We have an obligation to put the facts out there.”