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Neighborhood Park Referendum Continuing District's Solid History Of Financial and Public Trust Stewardship

 
Since 1934 the AHPD has asked the community 12 times to decide if the District should make improvements to parks and facilities by agreeing to additional taxes. The community has agreed nine of the 12 times and improvements have been completed. The first referendum to be approved was held in 1936, in the middle of the Great Depression.
 

On December 13, 2011 the Arlington Heights Park District Board of Commissioners voted to place a $48 million referendum on the March 20, 2012 ballot for residents’ consideration. Once again, in challenging economic times, the Park Board is looking for the community to decide if now is the time to make improvements to the parks and community centers at Camelot, Frontier, Heritage and Recreation Parks.

PROPOSED BOND REFERENDUM SOLUTION UPON CLOSER EXAMINATION

Since the decision to go to a referendum vote was made in December 2011, the Park District has been distributing information to the community in an effort to help residents understand what the impact upon taxpayers would be. The District has worked with their bond consultants to formulate a bond structure that would increase the amount of property taxes that a $300,000 market value house pays to the Park District by $36 over current levels to retire this new debt.

How is this possible? The District has a documented history of being financially prudent and maintains a Aaa bond rating (highest rating available) from Moody’s Investor Service, one of only 8 park districts in Illinois to be so rated. The Aaa rating will allow the Arlington Heights Park District to issue debt at the lowest possible interest rate as the organization has proven itself to be among the top tier of local governments in terms of financial strength, both in Illinois and nationally.

Here is an example that illustrates how this estimation process works based upon the District’s history. In November 2000, voters approved a $15 million referendum to renovate 4 pools. The Park District estimated that a taxpayer with a $200,000 market value home would pay $148 more the first year and an average of $22 in the subsequent 13 years (an average of $30 per year). When using the variables above and the interest rates on these bonds, the actual cost will be about $25 per year which is $5 less than originally projected.

Taxpayers can rely on the District to continue this practice, including information it has provided regarding the referendum impacts.

Questions about the referendum from concerned residents have ranged from “will there be a dog park,” to taxpayers skeptically asking how the estimated tax increase could be so small for such a large referendum amount. District officials are taking this opportunity to elaborate upon the actual bond issue in order to provide residents with comprehensive information so that they may make an informed decision on March 20.

UNDERSTANDING THE BOND STRUCTURE

The District intends to issue the bonds over several years, funding projects as they are constructed, so the entire $48 million will not be issued at once. The debt retirement will be structured to be combined with the District’s current debt, a significant portion of which will be retired in the next few years. Once all of the bonds have been sold, the District is estimating that a $300,000 home would see an increase of $36 over the current amount, and sustained at that level over a 25-year period. Should the referendum not pass, taxpayers would see a decrease in their taxes of $60 beginning in 2016, when existing debt is retired.  Click here for a Data Chart illustrating this Bond Structure.

To simply take the property taxes levied today and add a debt service figure to it, as has been suggested by a local taxpayer watch group, ignores both the issuance over several years, as well as the debt that is scheduled to be retired in the coming few years, on which that tax will no longer be collected.

THE MASTER PLANNING PROCESS

The Board’s decision to go to a referendum vote was the latest step in a planning process that began in 2009 as a result of findings from the District’s Community Needs Assessment that revealed that most residents favored building renovations versus building new. Sixty-percent of respondents favored adding amenities such as fitness center areas and walking/jogging tracks, among other features.

The Park District Board and staff immediately followed the community needs assessment by engaging in long-range master planning which involved 12 months of intensive data collection and public input meetings facilitated by FGM Architects, the District’s architect firm of record. FGM Architects issued its final report to the Park Board in August. Those recommendations, along with staff input, form the basis of the proposed bond referendum solution. The District published its five-year Comprehensive Plan in 2010. The ‘all community centers’ master plan approach allows the District to most efficiently use and reallocate existing buildings, space and resources.

AHPD LISTENED TO RESIDENTS

Focus groups, public input meetings and surveys have consistently revealed that Arlington Heights Park District residents would like updated facilities. Public input meetings held between February 2010 – January 2011 provided residents in the four neighborhoods with a chance to personally have a say in what was or was not approved for their neighborhood park. Over 300 residents participated in these public input meetings.

The Arlington Heights Park District has grown and changed immensely since Recreation, Frontier, Camelot and Heritage Parks were built in 1939, 1969, 1969 and 1969 respectively. The way recreation programs are managed has also evolved since then with the need for large multi-purpose accommodations to support recreation programs, meetings, rentals and other activities that are safe and handicapped accessible.

With this trend expected to continue into the decades to come, the Park District believes it must prepare now to provide adequate passive and active recreation spaces for today’s patrons, their children and their grandchildren.

Executive Director Steve Scholten Comment

“The Park District is well aware of the importance of its role in creating the wonderful life style that exists in Arlington Heights and we work daily to earn and maintain the trust of the public. We know how vital it is that the District remains an outstanding steward of the public funds that we are entrusted with.

In March of 1936 the Park Board of Commissioners was presented with two petitions, one against and one for putting a question on the ballot. Board Members approved a referendum question, stating that the Park District wanted the “will of the people” to prevail. The community voted in favor of the referendum and the land for Recreation Park was purchased and the pool and community center were built. The March 20 referendum question will once again allow the “will of the people” to prevail. We look forward to a continued dialogue with the community.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Further information about the master plans and the proposed referendum is available on the Park District’s web site, ahpd.org. Available materials include the 2009 Community Needs Assessment, Master Plan presentations, approved plans, fact sheet, FAQs, operating budgets, comprehensive plan and capital improvement documents, in addition to information on the existing community parks and their specific amenities and features.

Questions and comments are welcomed and encouraged. They can be submitted online at ahpd.org by clicking on the Just Ask banner or by calling 847-577-3007.

 

RESIDENTS ARE INVITED TO ATTEND NEIGHBORHOOD PARK REFERENDUM MEETINGS and

TAKE A TOUR OF EACH COMMUNITY CENTER

 

Monday, February 20 7:00 pm Frontier Park 1933 N. Kennicott Drive

Tuesday, February 21 7:00 pm Heritage Park 506 W. Victoria Lane

Thursday, February 23 7:00 pm Recreation Park 500 E. Miner Street

Monday, March 5 7:30 pm Camelot Park 1005 E. Suffield Drive

Saturday, March 10 9:30 am Pioneer Park 500 S. Fernandez Avenue

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS PARK DISTRICT MISSION

The Arlington Heights Park District enriches the community by providing quality recreation, facilities and fun.

We do this by:

  • Ensuring the efficient and effective use of financial resources and Park District assets.
  • Providing innovative recreational opportunities and facilities to meet the diverse programming needs of our community.
  • Continuing the District’s pursuit of being a community, regional, state and national leader.
  • Promoting an environment of cooperation, collaboration and teamwork.
  • Providing quality internal and external customer-focused service.
  • Providing stewardship of our open spaces and natural resources.

For more information, please contact the Arlington Heights Park District at 847-577-3007 or click on the Moving Forward, Together graphic on our website's homepage. You may also access information from the About AHPD drop down menu, select Capital Improvements and then the Master Plan Updates page.

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