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of Kane Open Space Referendum
Nov. 11, 2016
forest district could ask voters for $50 million
BY JAMES FULLER
If Kane County officials believe the results of a recent poll,
residents could vote on a $50 million tax increase for the forest
preserve district in April.
The forest district just spent the last of the money voters approved
in 2011 for buying open space. Last month, district staff reached out
to the Conservation Foundation to explore how receptive voters might
be to giving the district more cash. The Naperville-based nonprofit
ran the promotional campaigns of the district's tax increase requests
in 1999, 2005, 2007 and 2011. Voters approved all four increases.
The foundation then paid for a telephone poll of 400 likely voters in
the April elections. It's the same process and same polling
methodology used in the district's previous ballot questions. The
foundation's polls have all come within about 2 percentage points of
predicting the actual voting percentages.
The poll showed 58 percent of people asked will support the district
if it asks for $50 million or even $30 million. Support declined in a
big way when asked about a $70 million tax increase, foundation
President Brook McDonald told county board members, who double as
forest preserve commissioners.
"You don't want to put something on the ballot if it's going to get
slammed," McDonald said Tuesday. "Nothing is guaranteed, but you want
to go into it feeling fairly confident it likely will pass. Based on
this, I think you should consider moving forward with confidence."
The poll showed 20 percent of the respondents will vote against the
tax increase no matter what the district asks for. The remaining 22
percent are potential swing voters.
The poll also showed the forest preserve commissioners have an 87
percent approval rating. And 81 percent of likely voters trust the
district will spend their tax dollars wisely.
"You've done what you've said you were going to do with the previous
referendum money," McDonald said. "People like the Kane County Forest
Preserve District and the forest preserves."
Commissioners said they will make a final decision on a referendum in
January after the new commissioners elected earlier this month take
The owner of a $250,000 home would pay $1.83 more each month in
property taxes to the district if voters approve the tax increase.
That works out to about $22 for the year.
However, the district is also about to pay off the loan from the 1999
tax increase. The retirement of the debt would drive tax bills to the
district down. District officials did not have final projections on
hand, but they expect the impact of a $50 million referendum would
result in a lesser tax decrease, rather than an increase, because of
the amount of debt coming off the books.