Lake County voters can decide ballot questions seeking more tax money
Some Lake County voters will decide Tuesday if they want to pay more for proposals such as an upgraded recreation center, an expanded high school and public safety operations.
In addition, voters will determine if Barrington and Lake Zurich should receive greater municipal powers pertaining to taxes and other issues.
Following is a recap of the significant referendum questions on the Nov. 4 ballot.
Antioch: Antioch village and township residents will decide whether to create a new property tax rate dedicated to fund ambulance and emergency medical services at Antioch Fire Department and First Fire Protection District of Antioch.
The referendum questions -- one each for village and township voters -- ask to increase taxes 25 cents per $100 of equalized assessed valuation to pay for ambulance and rescue services. The tax is expected to cost the owner of a property valued at $100,000 about $83 in the first year.
If approved, Antioch Fire Chief John Nixon said, the new tax rate would generate about $1.5 million in the first year. The new revenue would mostly fund personnel and equipment maintenance, he said, but some money would be put aside for a capital replacement program.
The amount requested mirrors the amount now collected annually to pay for fire services at the department.
Wauconda Park District: Voters will be asked to approve a 10,000-square-foot addition to the 21-year-old building at 600 N. Main St., in Cook Park. Highlights could include an expanded fitness area, group fitness classrooms, an expanded dance room and an early-childhood classroom.
Officials say the extra space is needed because of the center's popularity and programs have grown through the years.
District officials are two months from paying off the loan that funded the center's construction.
If voters approve the expansion plan, the owner of a house with an average value of $223,500 would pay an additional $72 in annual property taxes, officials have said. The net increase from the current rate, which includes the cost of the initial construction loan, would be less than $39 a year, officials have said.
Grayslake Fire Protection District: The Grayslake Fire Protection District, which serves about 35,000 people is seeking a tax rate increase that would equate to an additional $53.33 for the first year on a home valued at $100,000. Property values have dropped since a tax hike was approved six years ago and the district says it was not able to recover the original amount that had been planned.
In the interim, a third station was built and district officials say staffing is bare bones while call volume has increased. Reserves have been drawn down and equipment has not been replaced, according to the district, which serves about 35,000 people in Grayslake, Wildwood, Gages Lake, Third Lake, Round Lake Park, Round Lake Beach, Highland Lake, Fremont Township and unincorporated Lake County.
Round Lake Area Unit District 116: District 116 wants voter permission to borrow $29 million for a Round Lake High School expansion and renovation.
Should the measure pass, school officials say, they can stabilize the tax rate for 16 years and debt would be extended by five years at a total cost of about $3,600 more for an owner of a $100,000 house than if the current repayment schedule remains in place. If it is rejected, property owners would see the tax rate increase the next four years, then begin to decline.
Round Lake High was built for 1,370 students but now houses about 2,100 teenagers, according to school figures. Students are on two daily schedules because of the space problems, officials said, and 12 classrooms in trailers serve 20 percent of the pupils at any given time.
Under the proposal, Round Lake High would receive 30 new classrooms, including four laboratories for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Plans also call for a new gymnasium to meet state physical education requirements, new student commons areas, improved building flow and upgraded technology and security.
An expansion would bring the maximum capacity to 2,288 students and lead to removal of portable classrooms and dual schedules, according to District 116. Construction would start in spring or fall 2015.
Lake Zurich and Barrington: Barrington and Lake Zurich voters are asked to grant home rule powers to officials in those villages.
Home rule would allow the towns to impose new taxes and fees ranging from liquor sales to video gambling licenses. Home rule communities are not subject to the state's property tax cap, which limits tax increases to the rate of inflation or 5 percent, whichever is less.
Lake Zurich and Barrington approved requirements that the villages will abide by the property tax cap even if home rule is approved. Home rule is automatic for towns with more than 25,000 population.