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posted: 1/25/2010 12:01 AM

It's the wrong time to raise taxes for Hampshire parks

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The Hampshire Park District has two referendums on the Feb. 2 ballot: one to issue $4.9 million in bonds, and one to increase the limiting tax rate by 5 cents per $100 equalized assessed value. In the end, the owner of a $250,000 home would pay about another $10 per year in taxes.

The park district is seeking to revamp the Bruce Ream Memorial Park, to buy land and renovate it for the second phase of the Tuscany Woods Park, to operate both parks once revamped, and to retire old debt to take advantage of lower interest rates now. Neighborhood and community groups worked together on an impressive master plan to renovate Bruce Ream Park.

Among the offerings would be a skate park; playgrounds; new restrooms; an amphitheater; a garden and walking paths; and more parking. Grants would help with a large part of the funding, the park district expects. At Tuscany Woods, plans call for an added ball field as well as facilities like those in Bruce Ream.

The park district wants to retire old debt, while going into new debt, because interest rates are better now, and it wants to do all this building now lest construction costs are higher should it have to do the renovations later.

The park district's efforts come in part, it says, because some residents are turning to neighboring towns for youth sports and other activities. And without added funds, Tuscany Woods Park would be left to the village, also cash-strapped.

Without added funds, too, the park district says it would have to cut staff or staff hours as well as raise fees. The park district's planning has been good and thorough, and we have no doubt about the district's need to provide more for Hampshire residents.

But now is not the time to raise residents' property taxes even a little, or keep them from dropping as the new debt would. We have to say no.