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News Coverage of Kane Open Space Referendum

Daily Herald
April 4, 2017

Kane County Forest District voters OK $50 million tax hike for more open space

James Fuller

Kane County voters Tuesday supported the fifth tax increase in the past 18 years for the Kane County Forest Preserve District. The favorable outcome will add $50 million to the district's ability to purchase and improve open space.

With all 291 precincts unofficially reporting, the tax increase received 25,357 "yes" votes compared to 21,672 "no" votes. The "yes" votes represented about 56 percent of the vote total.

Commissioners timed the tax increase question to match with the retirement of a large portion of the district's existing debt. That means taxpayers will still see their tax bills to the district decrease even after approving the $50 million tax increase. The owner of a $250,000 will see a tax reduction of $82. If the voters had rejected the tax hike, the tax savings for the same home would have jumped to $104.

The cash infusion will allow the district to purchase about 2,000 additional acres of open space, according to the district's projections. District officials plan to use about $10 million of the money for basic improvements to the preserves. Such improvements include parking lots, shelters, restrooms and trails.

Voter approval came in the face of a larger vocal opposition to the district's efforts than have been seen in previous tax increase attempts. In particular, the looming construction of the Longmeadow Parkway both fueled and organized an anti-referendum effort against Tuesday's ballot question. The parkway will bisect the Brunner Forest Preserve. The district used most of the 2007 tax increase to purchase that property.

With parkway construction set to begin this summer, Kane County residents elected an anti-Longmeadow representative to the county board for the first time in November. That sentiment did not appear to carry over to the forest preserve district referendum Tuesday night.

"I'm very pleased by the outcome," said Mark Davoust, one of the most vocal proponents of the referendum on the district's board of commissioners. "It's especially gratifying because the voters of Kane County were the ones to ultimately decide if this was to happen or not. We're very pleased that they want us to keep doing the work we've promised to do."