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updated: 8/14/2012 10:52 PM

Gilberts voters will have to decide on parks levy

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Gilberts voters will have a chance to put their money where their mouths are this November.

Residents have become increasingly vocal about the desire for better parks and recreation facilities in recent years, leaving officials to brainstorm ways to respond. Village board trustees decided Tuesday to put a question on the November ballot asking residents about an extra tax to pay for parks and rec.

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Voters will vote on a tax levy of 20 cents per $100 of equalized assessed value of their property. Village administrator Ray Keller told trustees the average resident would pay $150 to $200 per year because of the levy, an amount that is about 2.5 percent of their total tax bills.

Village President Rick Zirk acknowledged this is a hard time to ask for more money but said it's a chance for the community to define what it wants to be.

"If people really feel this is important, this is an opportunity for them to tell the board they think so," Zirk said.

About 120 homes are already part of the Dundee Township Park District, paying taxes to that entity. Trustees were generally supportive of refunding village taxes to those individuals in some way to avoid double taxing for park facilities if the levy is approved.

Keller estimated about $405,000 per year from the extra tax revenue. About half of that could finance a $2 million capital improvements program by issuing debt that would allow the build out of Town Center Park. Early design ideas include baseball diamonds, youth soccer fields, a pavilion, a splash park and expanded parking. Keller said Town Center Park is the only one with space on which to expand.

The other half would fund rehab projects at existing facilities and salaries for new employees -- a full-time program manager and maintenance person as well as two part-time employees to help in the summer.

Even for new facilities, Keller said extra revenue is necessary for long-term maintenance.

"You can give us the park, but we don't want it to get rundown," Keller said. "We want to make sure we can maintain it over the foreseeable future and keep it sustainable."

The new tax wouldn't bring in enough money to expand programming or replace the parks and recreation funding from the village's current budget, Keller said. The levy would focus instead on providing, enhancing and maintaining facilities.

Information will be sent to residents within the next few weeks explaining the levy and what it would pay for. The village is not taking a position on the issue, just giving residents the opportunity to vote on it, Keller said.

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