With about a month until Election Day, the Arlington Heights Park District is clarifying what the $39 million bond issue will mean for homeowners' pocketbooks if it passes.
The referendum comes after voters rejected a larger $48 million proposal in March. Park district officials say the money is needed to update and renovate several major parks.
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Getting the numbers right, and explaining them clearly, has proved tricky for the park district, which clashed with opponents over calculations during the lead-up to the March referendum.
If voters approve the bond issue, a resident with a $300,000 home would see an increase in the property tax payment to the park district of an average of $71 per year over the next 25 years, according to park district calculations.
But Steve Shoelten, executive director of the district, said repayment of the bonds has been structured so that the entire increase wouldn't hit the taxpayers right away.
Residents are still paying off $15 million in bonds that were approved by voters in 2000 for pool upgrades. If the new bond issue request passes, taxpayers would see a smaller increase on top of what they are paying today, $26 on average.
In 2016, however, those pool bonds will be expiring, and the owner of a $300,000 home would need to pay more for the parks update -- $76 on average between 2016 and 2032 and $88 on average between 2033 and 2037.
"In the years it will be costing the most to pay back this referendum, the other debt payment will be lower," Shoelten said.
The park district says this is how it would keep the cost for taxpayers even. But opponents of the bond issue said that approach veils the size of the tax increase, because without a new bond issue, taxes would be going down in a few years.
Roland Ley, president of the suburban group Taxpayers United, said he thinks the park district is underestimating the cost to the taxpayers. Either way, though, he thinks the $39 million is unnecessary.
"It's not a question of whether it's too much or too little," Ley said.
"You have to say, 'What are the needs of the park district and the community?' and they have produced no documentation to support the need for so many aspects of this plan, so we believe it's wasteful."
Scholten and Ley also pointed out the impact for taxpayers is an estimates because each resident's home value and tax bill is calculated individually.
"They're going overboard, and it's at the worst possible time in our economy to be doing this," said Ley, who added that it is an insult to the voters to come back with a similar proposal a few months after the larger project was rejected.
The park district starts a three-week information campaign next week that will include 11 public meetings, mailings and more as ways to get the word out about both the costs and benefits of the bond issue.
The initial public information meetings will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10, at Recreation Park and Thursday, Oct. 11, at Frontier Park.