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Boone County Board approves changes to wind turbine ordinance

BELVIDERE – Property tax bills are expected to increase slightly in the Boone County budget that goes into effect Dec. 1.

The county anticipates a 1.26 percent tax rate, although the actual rate won’t be set until spring. That would increase the property tax bill of the owner of a $100,000 house by about $4 next year for the county’s portion of the bill. The county’s share would be $345 for a $100,000 home, depending on the exemptions. The county’s tax rate makes up 11 percent of a total residential bill.

Board members approved the $25.7 million budget Wednesday, 10-2, making several cuts and tapping into cash reserves to balance it. On Oct. 21, the board voted 9-3 to use $800,000 of public safety sales tax revenue to balance the budget, a controversial move that resulted in debate between board members and residents.

“Our revenue and expenses are going opposite directions,” Chairman Bob Walberg said. “We have real concern (with) payments from the state. We put them in the budget anticipating we will get them. With this five-month process of trying to get a state budget, we’re not assured we’ll get those revenues.”

General fund revenues are projected at $16.2 million, and spending to be about the same, Boone County Administrator Ken Terrinoni said. The general fund was $14.9 million this year and $15.3 million in 2014. General funds pay for daily operations, including salaries. The increase can be attributed to increase costs in health insurances, wages, juror pay and new positions with the county, and to afford two sheriff’s deputies and two corrections officers to help staffing and reduce overtime.

Major funds in the budget include $4.8 million for bridge work. A significant repair to the bridge on Pleasant Street near the Green Giant plant will cost about $3 million.

The budget includes $740,000 for the new Animal Services building, plus $266,000 for one year of bond payments. Bids for construction will go out Dec. 1, Walberg said. “I’m hopeful they’ll (be) in line with what we anticipate the building will cost.”

The county also used to earn daily payments to house inmates from DeKalb County. But a 50 percent increase in inmates at the Boone County Jail has left no more room to house outsiders, costing about $400,000 in lost revenue, Walberg said.

Budgeting has been difficult for some time, Terrinoni said.

“We never got over the recession of ’09,” he said. “Our revenues never got better, then add into that the state (budget) problem, then the local prisoner population took off … .”

In other business, the board approved changes to the wind turbine ordinance, 9-3 vote, following approval Nov. 4 by the Planning, Zoning and Building Committee. The revised ordinance says wind energy conversion systems must be at least 2,640 feet, or 5½ times the height of the turbine tower, away from a property line; the previous distance was 1,000 feet. It also would allow property owners to waive setback conditions if an agreement is made with neighboring property owners.