Conservation District Receives National Award for Financial Excellence for Seven
The Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada awarded McHenry County Conservation District The Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for its comprehensive annual financial report for the seventh consecutive year. This Certificate of Achievement is the highest form of recognition in the area of government accounting and financial reporting and it represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management. The award recognizes those agencies that go beyond the minimum requirements of generally accepted accounting principles to prepare comprehensive annual financial reports that evidence the spirit of transparency and full disclosure.
• 89% of the District’s revenue comes from property taxes and the remainder from user fees, licenses, grants, donations and sponsorships. Education services and recreational programs, special events and land/facilities use licenses and lease agreements generate non-tax revenue for full or partial cost recovery.
• The District does not have the same ability or flexibility like the County or municipalities to fund operations and services with other tax and non-tax options. No authority to impose sales tax, motor fuel tax, hotel/motel tax and state aid is not received from the Local Government Distributive Fund for operations.
• Since 2011, the District’s General Corporate Levy (main General Fund operating levy) has increased less than 1% on an average annual basis. This is a direct result of the District effectively reducing costs by $1.6 million dollars over the same period; which represents 18% of the District’s total current FY 2018 annual operating budget.
• The District’s property tax dollars are 55% less than the average of the four (4) collar county forest preserve districts. While there are operational and programmatic differences, we share the same core mission of preserving and protecting public open space. One performance measurement that offers insight into the effectiveness of financial management is to compare the total operational (non-debt) property tax burden (or levies) collected by the agencies vs. – the total acres of land each agency owns. The District’s total 2016 operational levy was $7,794,197. If that total levy is divided by the total District acres of land under management of 25,540; it reflects that only $305.18 of property taxes are utilized to manage each acre owned. In contrast, the four collar county forest preserves averaged $685.78 per acre managed over the same time period.
• In a continued effort to support lower property taxes for McHenry County residents, the District elected to abate $341,092 of its original requested 2017 property tax levy. This is the fourth consecutive year the District’s total property tax levy has either been decreased or not increased from the previous year. The $341,092 includes a reduction of $216,270 which represents the total amount that the 2017 non-debt related levies could have been increased under the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law. The District also abated $124,822 of the Debt Service levy which represents the annual increase of the contractual payments of the referendum approved General Obligation bonds for the 2018 calendar year.
• Expanded areas and public access improvements per the approval of the voters—managing more with less. Per the approval of the voters of McHenry County, the District increased acres of public open space preserved and managed from 2001 to 2017 by 25%. During the same time period expanded opportunities for outdoor recreational pursuits by 39% (13 additional sites (from 20 to 33) and expanded opportunities for bicycling by adding 20 miles or 43.5% more of bicycle trails.