McHenry County Fights Conservation District’s Resistance To Cutting Property Taxes

Bernie Tafoya
May 08, 2019 - 4:00 pm

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McHENRY COUNTY (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- A fight over property taxes has led to the discovery of the sweetheart salary and perks being paid to the head of the McHenry County Conservation District.

McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks is in a battle with the county’s Conservation District over the district’s resistance to cutting property taxes.

Franks said he has been able to cut the county’s portion of taxes by 13 percent in two years but that the Conservation District wants to increase taxes.

He said people are leaving Illinois because of high taxes and he wants to lower them so more people will stay or move to McHenry County. He added that the Conservation District "is an organization that has bought so much land they don’t know what to do with it."

And, he said, he just saw the contract for Conservation District executive director Elizabeth Kessler that is paying her almost 200,000 a year with a 4 percent raise coming up in two months, uncluding other perks.

"What I found was absolutely shocking," Franks said. "It was outrageous. It was one of the most egregious contracts I’ve ever seen."

Kessler's salary began at $143,574 in 2010. It went up 2 percent the first year and 4 percent every year after that, according to the contract. The contract also calls for her to get a car, a laptop and a cellphone and that if she is fired but not for cause, her severance would amount to one year of her salary. Her salary has risen nearly 40 percent since she took the position.

WBBM reached out the McHenry County Conservation District executive director Kessler and from the Conservation District Board of Trustees President David Kranz for comment.

County Board Chairman Franks said tomorrow he will urge the board's Finance Committee to reject the Conservation District's proposed budget for the coming fiscal year, which he said includes a property tax increase.

"They’re going to have to get the message because I will not allow a property tax increase," he said. 

Franks said the Conservation District has millions of dollars in surplus, not to mention, "They have 5,500 acres that they’re leasing out land to farmers at this point. And then, they have another 6,000 acres, another 6,000 acres that they have no plans for."