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The Tax Tab: Park district eyes tax hike

Officials want to expand community center

Published: Thursday, July 17, 2014 10:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(David Giuliani/dgiuliani@shawmedia.com)
The Wauconda Park District is considering asking voters to raise taxes to pay for an expanded community center. It was built in 1993.

WAUCONDA – The Wauconda Park District may put a proposal for a tax increase on the ballot to pay for an expansion to its community center.

In 2008, 57 percent of voters rejected a proposed tax increase to pay for community center improvements and an outdoor water park. The vote would have authorized the parks to obtain $12 million in bonds to fund the projects.

This time around, though, park officials have no plans for a pool, just an expanded center.

Recently, the district held three hearings to get public feedback on what the park district needs. It also sent out letters, signed by board President Stefani Schweda Jerard, to residents in Wauconda; the district's boundaries are the same as the village's.

In 1993, the district built the 12,500-square-foot center at 600 N. Main St. Since then, the village's population has nearly doubled from 7,000 to 13,600.

Last year, the center offered 1,197 classes – a 70 percent increase in the last 5 years, according to the district. Fitness memberships jumped 30 percent in the last 5 years and participation in the dance program grew 40 percent in three years.

"That is why the Wauconda Park District board feels compelled to consider asking you, our residents, to make a new investment in the Community Center, which clearly plays a growing role in our community's quality of life," the letter said.

Here's what the board is considering:

• Expanded fitness area

• Quiet stretching area

• Dedicated group fitness classrooms

• Renovated multi-purpose rooms

• Expanded dance room

• Early-childhood classroom

• New waiting area

The board estimates the cost at $4.75 million, which includes the architect, construction and financing. The net impact for the average home in Wauconda ($223,500) will be a $38.70 hike in property taxes, or $3.23 a month, according to the district.

The district plans to mail out a survey in the coming weeks, seeking residents' opinions.

No decisions will be made until August, Jerard said in the letter. The referendum would be on the November election ballot.

Last month, Lake County Suburban Life looked at tax bills in area towns. Among other things, it found Wauconda Park District's bill lower than others in the area, with Lindenhurst the exception.

Nancy Burton, the district's director, credited the board's decision in the 1990s to build the community center.

"They had the foresight to put up the building," she said. "Our town was very small then."

The district will pay off the debt for the center in December, Burton said.

"The park district plays an important role in the quality of life in Wauconda," she said. "We have outgrown our current space."

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