Urbana park board critical of limiting rise in tax rate

Urbana park board critical of limiting rise in tax rate

URBANA – A suggestion that the Urbana Park District should slightly limit, for a year or two, the impact of a proposed 25-cent increase in the park district's property tax rate got a chilly reception Friday.

At a park board study session, board President Michael Walker suggested that, if city voters approve the proposed tax rate increase in the Feb. 5 primary, the board might want to juggle its tax levy to reduce the overall tax rate increase by 3.5 cents for the first year and possibly by a smaller amount the second year, before implementing the full 25-cent increase.

The proposal, he said, would mean that the district would receive $1.1 million in additional money the first year, $200,000 less than if the district just levied the full amount it could get.

"Let's face it, this is not the best of economic times," said Walker, who added he felt the proposal might be easier to sell to the public.

Walker's proposal would mean that the owner of a $150,000 home would see a $100 increase in the property taxes the first year, compared with $119 if the full tax rate increase were implemented.

But the other three park board members, Deborah Rugg, Nancy Delcomyn and Robert Stewart, all indicated they thought such a proposal would be confusing to voters and would undercut the message that the additional money is needed to attain park district goals.

Those goals include a comprehensive rehabilitation of Crystal Lake Pool, rejuvenating Crystal Lake Park, rehabilitating neighborhood parks, constructing walking and biking trails throughout the district and restoring more natural areas and better maintaining existing ones.

"I think it makes our message muddier when what we want them to focus on is what they are going to get for their tax dollars," said Rugg. "Twenty-one cents is still darn high."

Stewart said Walker's proposal would be confusing to voters.

"When they see 25 cents on the ballot, they're going to feel snookered," he said.

Walker said after the meeting he is dropping his proposal. The park board has five members. Board member Bruce Larson was absent.

The proposed 25-cent tax rate increase would bring the district's overall rate next year to 94.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

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