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updated: 12/13/2012 5:15 AM

Libertyville leaders want details in Brainerd referendum

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  • Libertyville voters will be asked whether they would be willing to pay increased property taxes to convert the Brainerd building in Libertyville into a community center.

       Libertyville voters will be asked whether they would be willing to pay increased property taxes to convert the Brainerd building in Libertyville into a community center.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

 
 

Rather than a vaguely worded advisory question of whether a tax increase should be used to save the Brainerd building in Libertyville, village leaders prefer voters know exactly how much would come out of their pockets.

"I would support having clarity on the ballot. I think the voice of the people is what should guide us in this financial commitment," village Trustee Donna Johnson said during a presentation at Tuesday's village board meeting. "Let's just be sure that the estimates ... are realistic."

Voters in Libertyville are expected to be asked whether they would be willing to pay more in property taxes to convert the former Libertyville Township High School into a community center.

How the question gets on the ballot and what it will say is in flux. The operative number to make the building usable is $3.5 million. That would cost the owner of a $400,000 home about $47.50 per year.

"We agree, if at all possible, that language should be on the ballot," Scott Adams, a member of the executive committee of the Brainerd Community Center Inc., told trustees.

Although they support asking for public opinion through a ballot question, many trustees are wary of such an investment and cite continuing losses at the Libertyville Sports Complex, which opened 10 years ago.

"This is something that needs a lot of discussion and a lot of voter awareness," Trustee Todd Gaines said. At least one public information meeting is expected in advance of the vote.

Supporters of converting the former school, known as the Brainerd building, have gathered 1,054 signatures -- well over the required amount -- on a petition to place an advisory referendum on the ballot April 9.

The signatures would need to be turned over to the village by Jan. 7 to be filed with the Lake County clerk's office.

The problem for village officials is the petition voters signed asks only whether a property tax hike should be used to support the renovation but doesn't say how much of one.

"I don't think it's what anyone from your board or our board would want because it doesn't really give direction," Mayor Terry Weppler said Tuesday during the pitch by Adams.

The preferred method would be to have the village board pass a resolution to be filed with the county clerk that clearly states how much is sought, he said. That would have to be approved at a village board meeting, but there are only two scheduled -- Jan. 8 and Jan. 22, the latter being the deadline for such an action.

Weppler asked supporters to delay presenting petitions until details can be flushed out to avoid potentially having two Brainerd questions on the ballot.

Seeking taxpayer help is the last resort for the Brainerd group, which has raised only about $100,000 the last three years. The donations have been used to fix leaks and for other work on the buildings at Route 176 and Brainerd Avenue.

Brainerd, built in 1916, and the Jackson Gym, built in 1929, are owned by Libertyville-Vernon Hills area High School District 128 and leased to the village. The village subleases them to the community group and the effective deadline for substantial fundraising progress is July 2014.

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