Illinois treasurer: Kane County forest district is a win-win investment

Updated 9/14/2017 2:33 PM

Kane County Forest Preserve District officials fretted about Illinois' budget chaos as they prepared to take $50 million of bonds to the market in July. The state's financial woes added uncertainty that could have resulted in greater costs to local taxpayers to borrow the money.

That wasn't part of the sales pitch to county voters who approved the debt to provide cash for open space preservation.

As it turned out, state lawmakers inked a budget deal before the bond sale. And one of the first entities in line to buy the district's bonds was the state of Illinois. Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs purchased $3.67 million worth of the district's bonds.

"I want to reiterate how glad we are to be investing in the Kane County Forest Preserve," reads a letter the district recently received from Frerichs. "Not only do we view this as a prudent and responsible investment opportunity, but we understand its value in providing immediate capital support to a local community. It's a win-win for the state, providing both our offices with an opportunity to contribute more to our constituents."

The forest preserve district has an AA+ bond rating, fueling Frerichs' faith in the district. In comparison, Moody's tagged Illinois with a Baa3 bond rating even after state lawmakers put a budget in place. That's the lowest investment grade rating possible.

The district's issuance of $50 million in new debt paired with the retirement of much of its existing debt. As a result, the owner of a home valued at $250,000 was set to receive a tax reduction of $82 even after 56 percent of the voters approved the $50 million tax increase.

The district will use the money to buy about 2,000 acres of open space and create basic improvements in the preserves.

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