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updated: 10/1/2013 9:23 AM

Huntley parks might put $20 million question to voters

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  • The Huntley Park District is considering asking voters in March to approve a $20 million bond issue to expand facilities.

      The Huntley Park District is considering asking voters in March to approve a $20 million bond issue to expand facilities.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer


How much would Huntley Park District taxpayers pay to play indoor sports and swim in an Olympic-size pool?

That's the $20 million question that might be on the March ballot.

The park board might seek voter approval to finance a $20 million facilities expansion through a referendum. The park board will decide whether to place the question on the ballot at its Nov. 21 meeting, an official said.

The money would fund an indoor, artificial turf facility west of Deicke Park (estimated to cost between $9 million and $10 million) and the addition of an outdoor, competitive swimming pool at the Stingray Bay Aquatic Center off Route 47 and Mill Street (estimated to cost roughly $4 million). The remainder would be set aside for future land purchase and development, though there are no specific plans as yet, Executive Director Thom Palmer said.

The project ideas were developed from a community survey done as part of the district's 2011 comprehensive plan.

Palmer said residents wouldn't have to pay more in property taxes because the district would restructure existing debt.

The district borrowed $9.35 million over 15 years for the REC Center and aquatic center. Those bonds are set to expire in 2015. Bonds issued for purchase of the Pinecrest Golf Club -- $5.7 million over 15 years -- are set to be retired by 2018.

If voters reject the $20 million bond issue, they would see a reduction, on average, of $125 per year. If voters approve the bond issue, their taxes could go down by $35 per year with restructuring of current bonds, Palmer said.

The decrease could happen over two or three years, he added.

The park district serves 40,000 residents within Huntley, the western portions of Lake in the Hills and Algonquin, and rural areas west of Huntley. It operates on an $8 million budget funded 55 percent through property taxes and 45 percent through fees.

It has no money in reserve to fund either project, Palmer said.

"Holding your taxes as is, that is the question," Palmer said. "Would the voter consider that with the addition of these amenities? The park board feels an obligation to ask the question. They will move forward with whatever the answer is."

Legally, the district would have up to five years to spend the bond money, but officials are ready to move forward with drawing up architectural and engineering plans next year, with likely construction in 2015.

Building a competitive pool would allow the park district to keep the family pool open during swim meets or practices. The enclosed turf field would be used for indoor soccer, softball, lacrosse and football practice and would house other amenities such as a bocce ball area and a multipurpose space, Palmer said.

So far, no money has been spent on plans besides $4,840 approved by the board for soil borings at the proposed site of the turf field.

Palmer said the turf field could potentially generate significant revenue for the district through user fees, beyond covering its own operation and maintenance costs. Currently, the Huntley Little League program spends $20,000 annually to rent space outside town, he said.

"This will also be an opportunity for indoor tournaments that brings economic benefit to the village of Huntley and surrounding area," Palmer added.

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