On March 20, the Fox Valley Park District is asking voters in Aurora, North Aurora and Montgomery to approve a 7-cent tax rate increase that will generate revenue for maintenance and operations. This increase would result in an extra tax of $36 – or $3 per month – for the owner of a $175,000 home, the median home value in Aurora.
Fox Valley Park District Ballot Question:
Shall the limiting rate under the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law for the Fox Valley Park District, Kane, DuPage, Kendall and Will Counties, Illinois, be increased by an additional amount equal to 0.07000% above the limiting rate for levy year 2016 for park purposes and be equal to 0.41687% of the equalized assessed value of the taxable property therein for levy year 2018?
Why is Fox Valley Park District asking residents for this referendum?
We are asking residents to approve a 7-cent tax rate increase that will generate revenue for maintenance and operation of existing trails, parks, playgrounds, shelters and facilities. As the Park District’s assets have grown – community centers, park acreage, trails – the operating budget has remained flat (see chart below). Since 2002, assets have grown by 223%, but the operating budget to take care of these and all other assets has not grown accordingly. The Park District is seeking to “right-size” its budget to continue the level of excellence residents expect and deserve.
How much is the referendum?
The referendum would generate an estimated $2.7 million per year, which would cover necessary maintenance and operations. As the second largest Park District in Illinois, Fox Valley currently receives .05 cents from every resident’s tax dollar, and that figure would remain about the same.
What are some examples of “maintenance and operations” for which the referendum funds will be applied?
Some examples would include trails, ballfields, mowing, snow removal and facility repairs, just for starters.
- The Park District owns and maintains 48 miles of trails and is continually adding more and building connections across the network. Maintaining safe riding surfaces is a full-time endeavor, as is mowing trail shoulders on each side (96 miles of mowing).
- Every ballplayer, coach and fan enjoys arriving to an immaculate, manicured ball field or a freshly lined and mowed soccer field for that night’s game. Ground crews are responsible for 104 ball fields and 83 soccer fields across the District.
- Keeping 1,345 acres of turf groomed and mowed across the District’s 168 parks is a perennial tall task. District crews are mowing seven days a week during peak months.
- Snow removal at facilities is always a priority. No matter what time of day, FVPD strives to keep parking lots and walkways clear and safe.
- Facilities – just like a family home – are always in need of repairs, big and small. Plumbing, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), electrical. As a homeowner would say, it’s always something.
What is the impact on my tax bill if voters approve the referendum?
Considering that only 5 cents of each resident’s tax dollar goes toward the Park District, the impact will be small. The approximate cost to the owner of a $175,000 home (the median Aurora home value) would be $3 per month, or $36 per year.
What happens if the referendum is not approved?
Since this referendum is for maintenance of existing facilities and not new construction, non-passage would result in sweeping cutbacks to services and operations, thus reducing the level of excellence to which residents have become accustomed. Some facilities may run at reduced hours, perhaps opening an hour later and closing an hour earlier, for example. The Board of Commissioners would prioritize which facilities it is able to update and repair with available funds. Other areas may see longer, more prolonged service gaps.
Why is the referendum question being asked now?
For six consecutive years – dating to 2011 – the Park District opted to freeze its tax levy out of consideration to residents and the financial challenges many faced in a recovering economy. While providing taxpayers with great relief for those six years, the tax freeze resulted in $5.4 million in lost funds for the Park District.
Meanwhile, community assets continued to grow, per residents’ wishes, with expansion of Stuart Sports Complex, a modern makeover at Blackberry Farm, additional trails and connectivity, construction of new parks and acquisition of open space and Fox River shoreline. As community assets grew, expenses to maintain them rose, but funding for these operations remained unchanged.
As an example, it would be akin to a growing family putting an addition on to their house. With that addition comes added costs – furnishing, utilities, etc. Given its recent growth – which came with residents’ blessings – the Park District is asking voters to allow us to continue maintaining the level of excellence they expect and deserve.
How can we be assured the Park District will use taxpayer money wisely?
The Fox Valley Park District’s track record for financial stewardship is outstanding, as recognized for many years by the National Recreation & Park Association (NRPA), the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) and Standard and Poor’s Rating Services.
In 2009, Fox Valley earned a national Gold Medal from the NRPA – the most prestigious award in the profession – for excellence in long-range planning and fiscal resource management. In 2015, Fox Valley was first runner-up for another Gold Medal.
Fox Valley has also earned a certificate of achievement for excellence in financial reporting by the GFOA in each of the past 16 years, and maintains an AA bond rating with Standard & Poor’s.