MAHOMET — The Champaign County Forest Preserve District board is expected to approve a resolution tonight asking voters to consider a property-tax increase in the November election.
If approved by voters, the district’s current rate of about 8.75 cents per $100 of assessed valuation would rise to about 10.3 cents per $100 of assessed valuation on next spring’s property-tax bills.
A similar tax-increase vote in November 2008 failed countywide, 57.5 percent to 42.5 percent.
Voters haven’t approved an increase in the forest preserve district’s tax rate since it was formed in 1948, board President Sarah Livesay said.
“I’ve been on the board for eight years, and for as long as I can remember, this has been in discussion, but very seriously in the last three or four years,” she said.
The hike would cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 about $5.33 a year. The owner of a $300,000 home would pay about $16 more.
“This is a very minimal ask. Overall, you’re looking at less than $700,000 that would be coming in,” Livesay said. “I think that’s proof of what we’re trying to do here. This isn’t for something spectacularly new and shiny. We have to take care of what we have. This is about maintenance and protection of the assets of the county.”
Livesay and forest preserve district Executive Director Mary Ellen Wuellner said the tax increase would be used to maintain facilities, including Willow Pond at the Middle Fork River Forest Preserve near Penfield, the covered bridge at Lake of the Woods Park near Mahomet, a nature center renovation and dam repairs at Homer Lake, and various restroom, playground and accessibility features throughout the district’s properties.
“It’s like taking care of a house. Eventually, everything gets old at the same time and you have to figure out how to address it. That’s where we are,” Wuellner said. “These are six-figure projects that we can’t swing in our current budget.”
The district has a $4 million capital-improvements backlog, Wuellner said.
Not included in the projects to be undertaken with the proceeds of any tax increase is the expansion of the Kickapoo Rail Trail between St. Joseph and Oakwood.
“This wouldn’t be needed for the bike trail because there are grants available for that,” Wuellner said. “That’s how we will finish that project is through grants, the same way we started it.”
The forest preserve district board meeting was held outdoors — at the Rotary Hill Shelter at Lake of the Woods Park — beginning with a 6 p.m. study session.
Wuellner said that if the tax-increase vote fails, she hopes the forest preserve district board would try again in 2022.
“Obviously, we hope to be successful the first time around, but not all referenda happen that way,” she said. “Certainly, the economic climate is not perfect but it’s really never the perfect time to go. All we can do is do our best and educate people.
“I think it helps that that increment that would be added to property taxes is so low and is spread across the county. It’s essentially a cheeseburger and a shake” for the owner of a $100,000 home.