A message from the New Lenox Community Park District:
At the recent New Lenox Community Park District board meeting, a formal resolution was passed announcing a referendum for the Park District which will appear on the March 18 ballot. Board President Brian Fischer outlined for those in attendance, as well as the general public, the specifics regarding the referendum and emphasized that this referendum does not result in a net tax increase.
Board President Fischer stated, “We want to assure our residents that this referendum will not result in a new increase to your property taxes.” This referendum is the result of the 2004 General Obligation Bonds that were used to construct the Park District’s Sanctuary Golf Course will be paid off in 2015. Once this final payment is made, the Park District will no longer be entitled to this 6.2 cents per $100 of assessed value. With average home values in New Lenox at approximately $250,000, the financial impact for each homeowner would be less than $50.00 per year.
While the Park District continues to point out that although it is viewed as a tax increase, the net effect of the referendum will not result in an increase due to the retirement of the bonds and the increase in the limiting rate. The understanding of this referendum and its effect on homeowners, is also challenged by the required legal wording of the referendum question. The ballot question requires language approved by the Illinois General Assembly and by law must be written and will be presented as an increase. The New Lenox Community Park District acknowledges their fear that when residents vote and read the question, and it indicates an increase that people will more than likely vote against it. It is their intention to continue to educate the public on the fact that the net effect of the referendum will show no increase in their property tax rates.
Since 1998, The New Lenox Community Park District has been able to develop 20 park sites and acquired over 214.4 acres of open space. The number of playgrounds has increased from 10 to 32. That equates to 22 new playgrounds in 15 years at an average cost of a playground at $85,000. Despite the decline in the housing market, successful park development was accomplished through the submission of grant resources from the State of Illinois and the Department of Natural Resources. The Park District has been awarded over $2 million in this matching grant program which has assisted to complete over $4.2 million in development projects. Taxpayers’ dollars has helped them to complete the remaining total needed. Statistics show that this equates to an average of $48 per household per year.
Park Board Vice President, Ross Jansma, went on to describe what the keeping of these dollars would mean to the Park District. “These funds will not be used for salaries, staff benefits, utilities or supplies. Our future vision would be to improve as well as for park development in those sub-divisions that have been patiently waiting for a park. In addition, we would continue land acquisition to maintain open space as well as continue ADA compliance.”
The New Lenox Community Park District has demonstrated the ability to do a lot with a little. As a taxing body, the Park District only represents approximately 29 cents of 3.6% of the total tax rate of all taxing districts. Park Board Treasurer, Garry Kraemer, pointed out that the Park District’s Finance Department and the financial procedures followed by all staff, “Continue to excel in their reporting capabilities and financial transparency.” For an unprecedented five years, the Park District has obtained the prestigious Government Finance Officers Association’s highest level of recognition for Government Financial Reporting. “This award represents your park district’s commitment to our residents for financial responsibility and the best use of each and every tax dollar.”
As with any referendum, one of the major stumbling blocks tax bodies encounter is to ensure that those who have a voice in an election are registered to vote and actually do vote. In the past, the Park District has encountered support for the quality services and programs they provide, but when Election Day arrives those who can vote don’t vote or unfortunately have not registered to vote. Newly elected Park Board Commissioner, Ted Schulz, addressed the voting issue by saying, “We need to have everyone’s voice heard for this important referendum. Your Park District has always been a strong proponent for the need for our residents to be a registered voter and at the March election, voting is more important than ever.” The New Lenox Community Park District’s main office at the Lions Community Center in New Lenox, is an official registrar for the public to become a registered voter. In addition, their office hours have been extended to allow for those working residents to become a registered voter. “The quality of the programs and park development your Park District offers depends on all residents that we serve.”The New Lenox Community Park District encourages the public to visit their website, www.newlenoxparks.org for full details regarding this referendum including a tax calculator to show each household’s actual annual tax amount. Both the Park Board and Executive Director, Greg Lewis, encourage and welcome any assistance they can provide in answering any questions or concerns a resident may have. Park Board Secretary, Dale Larson, encouraged residents by relating, “If there are any residents that have any concerns or questions, all board members would be happy to meet or discuss with any resident groups or individuals to answer personally any questions and to obtain public feedback on this referendum and its purpose.” Both the Park Board of Commissioners and Executive Director Lewis can be reached during normal business hours at 815-485-3584.
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