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Local News

Joliet park board puts property tax hike on April ballot

Inwood Athletic Club is June 26 Joliet.
Inwood Athletic Club is June 26 Joliet.

The Joliet Park District Board on Monday voted to seek a property tax increase in the April 2 election.

The tax hike would come with an annual cost of $85 per $100,000 of assessed valuation, park officials said. It would generate about $5 million a year, primarily to pay for park operations and maintenance.

Staff told the board before the vote that they have been unable to keep up with rising costs at aging facilities, especially when bad weather puts a damper on revenue-generating activities.

“The Joliet Park District is very dependent on weather-related activities, and the weather hasn’t cooperated for the last couple of years,” Deputy Director Brad Staab said.

Revenues from golf courses, soccer games and even the Taste of Joliet have been down because of weather, Staab said.

He pointed to the age of park district facilities, saying more money is needed to keep up with maintenance at 93-year-old Woodruff Golf Course, 90-year-old Joliet Regional Airport and 70-year-old Joliet Memorial Stadium.

Director of Finance Matt Pehle said property taxes account for 32 percent of the revenue for Joliet parks, while other park districts get about half their money from property taxes.

The district gets $8.8 million from property taxes. The remaining revenue comes primarily from money generated by park operations.

“Our operations just aren’t able to maintain everything the way they used to,” Pehle said.

The tax rate is 0.4543. It would rise 0.2558 if the referendum is approved.

The referendum will come less than five years after 70 percent of park district voters supported a $19.5 million bond referendum to pay for park improvements and repairs at a cost of about $20 per $100,000 of assessed value.

The Park Board on Monday voted 4-0 to put the referendum on the ballot. One board member, Bill Tatro, was absent.

“I’d like to move forward and let the voters decide,” member Joe Clement said. “It’s needed.”

Board President Sue Gulas said the park district is “just too far behind in capital.”

“We’ve never cried wolf about our shortfall on a capital basis,” Gulas said. “I don’t think the public knows how bad things are.”

The park district sent a letter to residents Dec. 20 informing them of open houses set for Jan. 19, Feb. 21 and March 12 for public discussion about the referendum.

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