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Article updated: 9/28/2012 8:06 AM

Arlington Heights Park District launches information campaign on referendum

By Melissa Silverberg

The Arlington Heights Park District has launched an aggressive information campaign to educate residents about the $39 million parks improvement referendum that will be on the ballot in November.

The "Your Voice, Your Choice" campaign includes 11 public meetings over three weeks leading up to the Nov. 6 election, a new website and direct mailings to registered voters, said Executive Director Steve Scholten.

"It's important for the community to understand that it's their decision," he said. "We want to inform as many people as we can regarding what the referendum will do for the community and what the cost will be."

Scholten said he expects the vote to be close in November, as it was in March when a larger $48 million plan was rejected by 52 percent of voters.

The $39 million would fund an enhanced walking path at Lake Arlington, major overhauls to accessibility and program space at Camelot, Frontier, Heritage, Olympic and Recreation parks, and more, according to the park district.

Should the referendum pass, the owner of a property valued at $300,000 could expect to see their annual tax payment increase by an average of $71 until bonds are repaid in 25 years. In 2012, the increase would be $21, but by 2033, it would be $88 more than residents are paying today, according to district figures.

"It's not a matter of one side or another; it's just getting the facts out there," said board member Rob Nesvacil said of the district's informational campaign.

Nesvacil said the meetings are a chance for the district to address rumors and misinformation that may have spread before the March referendum.

"A lot of people were asking why we don't just work with the schools (for more space). But the fact is we work with every (school) district in Arlington Heights already," he said. "We just want to get all the information out there."

Meetings will be held from 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10, and Monday, Oct. 29, at Recreation Park; Thursday, Oct. 11, and Thursday, Oct. 25, at Frontier; Monday, Oct. 15, Wednesday, Oct. 17, Wednesday, Oct. 24, and Thursday, Nov. 1, at Olympic; Tuesday, Oct. 16, at Camelot; Thursday, Oct. 18, at Heritage; and at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, at Pioneer.

No more than two board members will be at each community meeting so as to not conflict with Open Meetings laws.

Scholten said he does not know the specific dollar amount being spent on the information campaign, but he is not concerned that the district is violating guidelines barring government bodies from advocating for a referendum.

"We are fully aware of the requirements not to spend park district funds to advocate for a position, therefore all that will be presented will be information only," Scholten said. "We will not suggest to anyone as to how they should vote."

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