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News Coverage of Kane Open Space Referendum

Elgin Courier-News
Sept. 22, 2016

Kane district created new forest preserves with funds from $30M referendum

Gloria Casas
Elgin Courier-News

The Forest Preserve District of Kane County added close to 2,000 acres of open space to its holdings and improved existing forest preserves using $30 million generated from a 2011 referendum, according to a report chronicling its efforts.

"It's a good snapshot of what we've been able to accomplish," district Commissioner John Hoscheit said.

He outlined the report at a recent district board meeting. Hoscheit served as president of the Forest Preserve District commission when voters approved a Land Acquisition and Preserve Improvement Referendum question in April 2011.

The district used money generated by the referendum to purchase open space for new forest preserves such as the 32-acre Bowes Creek Greenway on Centennial Way in Elgin and the 163-acre Hoscheit Woods Forest Preserve, named after the former district president who served 12 years.

Other new preserves include Blackberry Township Property on Hughes Road and Fabyan Parkway in Batavia, Big Rock Township Property on County Line Road in Big Rock, Kaneville Township property on Bateman Road in Maple Park and the Brunner Family Forest Preserve on Route 31 in West Dundee, according to the report.

The 28-acre Fox River Forested Fen Forest Preserve on Dundee Avenue in Elgin the former Fox River Country Day School property was acquired in 2013 through an intergovernmental agreement with the Illinois Toll Highway Authority and the city of Elgin, the report stated.
Additionally, 14 forest preserves around the county were expanded, according to the report. The largest expansion was 148 acres at Bowes Creek Woods Forest Preserve on Crawford Road in Elgin, it stated. The Burlington Prairie Forest Preserve in Sycamore was expanded by 136 acres to create a 949-acre preserve, it stated.

The Leroy Oakes Forest Preserve, on Dean Street in St. Charles, had new amenities added like the Creek Bend Nature Center.

The district is finished investing funds from the referendum, so district officials recently meet with the Citizens Advisory Group to discuss what was done with the referendum money, Hoscheit said. The group was supportive of the district's land purchases and programs, he said.

"The report was well received, and the group is still enthusiastic about the land acquisition program," he said.

Hoscheit said taxpayers will begin seeing their tax bill for the district go down as the referendum bonds are repaid. About 83 percent of the district's tax levy is used to pay off the bonds and 17 percent goes to operational costs, he said. A taxpayer with a home valued at $250,000 pays about $231 in taxes to the district, he said. Next year, the amount will go down to the $160 range, he said. The tax levy will continue to be reduced by the following year as the bonds are paid off, he said.

"We are carrying out the promise," Hoscheit said of the 2011 referendum. "If you are here long enough, you will see it happen. There will be a major reduction in the forest preserve (tax) levy."

The district's recent decision to refinance the bonds helps move it closer to the payoff, he said. The district continuously evaluates where it stands and is trying to bring public awareness to its efforts, he said.

"It is pretty amazing what we have accomplished," Hoscheit said.
Gloria Casas is a freelance reporter for The Courier-News.