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updated: 10/22/2012 5:38 PM

Gilberts residents must decide on new tax for parks and rec

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The second and final pre-election open house in Gilberts will be held Wednesday evening to give residents a chance to learn more about how money from a parks and recreation tax could be used.

Voters will see a binding referendum question on the Nov. 6 ballot on whether they favor the new tax.

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Gilberts Village Administrator Ray Keller said the village is not advocating for the new tax but simply asking the question to find out if the community wants this to be the strategy to improve parks and recreation.

"We're just waiting to see what the community would like to do with parks and rec moving forward," Keller said. "If not this, we look forward to seeing what other ideas people in the community have."

Residents have become more vocal in recent years about the desire for more and better parks. But the village has struggled to come up with ways to fund improvements.

With an estimated $405,000 generated from the tax -- which would be 20 cents per $100 of equalized assessed value on properties -- the village could build out Town Center Park with sports fields, playground equipment, a walking trail, a splash park and extra parking. That project would cost about $1.8 million and be paid for over 20 years, according to information sent to residents about the tax.

The rest of the revenue would be budgeted to rehab the infields and parking lots at Memorial and Waitcus parks, hire new parks staff, fund maintenance and replacement of park amenities, support and expand program offerings and reimburse the difference between resident and nonresident health club membership rates at the Dundee Township Park District's Randall Oaks Fitness Center.

If the tax is approved by voters in two weeks, Gilberts residents who already are Dundee Township Park District members can apply for a refund of the tax so they don't pay for parks services twice.

If the tax is not approved, the village would be able to continue basic maintenance on its facilities but would not have any money for extra projects.

Village trustees voted in August to put the question on the ballot after deciding this would be the most cost-effective way to fund parks improvements -- especially when compared to creating a new park district or joining an existing one. The Dundee Township Park District charges more than double Gilberts' proposed tax.

The open house will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Oct. 24 at village hall, 87 Galligan Road. Information is also available at villageofgilberts.com.

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