How a lot is nature price? The Forest Protect District of Cook dinner County is about to seek out out.
The district’s board of commissioners has thrown its unanimous assist behind a proposal for a poll referendum that may put a property tax improve for the preserves instantly within the palms of voters.
At Tuesday’s assembly of the board, commissioners agreed to ship the referendum decision to the finance committee, the place a full listening to will likely be convened and the referendum’s language will likely be finalized. The measure is predicted to be positioned on ballots within the November 2022 election.
“It’s a possibility for voters to resolve in the event that they wish to make an funding in the way forward for the forest preserves,” stated Commissioner Larry Suffredin, one of many architects of the decision.
The referendum, because it presently stands, would suggest elevating the present forest protect taxing price by .025% to a complete of .076%, which might add roughly $40 million to the district’s coffers. For a single household residence in Cook dinner County with a good market worth of $100,000 on the time of the referendum, the rise in annual taxes could be $7.29, in keeping with the decision introduced to commissioners.
Sending the referendum to committee will not be an approval of the measure however reasonably an “indicator” of commissioners’ want to see the referendum transfer ahead, Suffredin stated.
Commissioner John Daley known as on his colleagues to sponsor the referendum, saying: “The way forward for the forest preserves is at stake. I might urge us as a gaggle to talk strongly and loudly in assist.”
The necessity for a referendum was broached in late 2020 throughout discussions surrounding the district’s 2021 funds. Normal Superintendent Arnold Randall informed commissioners on the time that the district must draw $19 million from its reserves simply to take care of programming and pay employees.
“This funds doesn’t signify a sustainable scenario,” Randall stated, nor did it handle “underlying fiscal issues” similar to deferred upkeep, capital enhancements or pension commitments.
Talking once more Tuesday, Randall famous that previously decade, the preserves had doubled the quantity of land below restoration — “You possibly can see the distinction,” he stated — added campgrounds, expanded trails and doubled the variety of packages provided. The district additionally helps the Chicago Botanic Backyard and Brookfield Zoo. On the similar time, the district’s funds has grown lower than 10%, he stated.
The tax improve would put the district on agency monetary footing whereas permitting for development as properly, together with the acquisition of extra land, Randall stated.
The forest preserves greater than proved its worth through the pandemic, he stated, tallying customer numbers the likes of which had by no means been seen.
“What a important useful resource our 70,000 acres are,” Randall stated.
The query is whether or not these advantages will nonetheless resonate with voters in 2022.
Contact Patty Wetli: @pattywetli | (773) 509-5623 | [email protected]