The Kane County Forest Preserve District is asking voters to pass a referendum for $30 million in bonds to add still more land to its control.
Area newspapers have been flooded with letters from members of environmental and conservation groups promoting this referendum. A recent newspaper article quoted the District President John Hoscheit as saying that now is the time to ask for a referendum and subsequent tax increase because at this time, land is “on sale.” But, is this really a “bargain?” Consider the following:
1. By its own figures, the Kane Forest Preserve District currently holds 18,572 acres of land. This is approximately 6 percent of all land in the county, and includes a baseball stadium, a skating rink and several golf courses—none of which have anything to do with “preserving forests.”
2. Every acre held by the district is an acre off the tax rolls. This means each property owner must make up a portion of that missing tax appropriation, plus the additional amount needed to pay for lands bought with this referendum. This is not a “one-time, 20-year referendum” as Mr. Hoscheit claims, but a forever cost to those paying property taxes.
3. In addition to the cost of the referendum and the cost of property owners to make up the tax revenue lost by removal of additional land from the tax rolls, we must add the cost of property maintenance equipment and the buildings needed to house it, cost of salaries, insurance and pensions for additional employees the district must hire to maintain and patrol these new properties, and for any additional administrative personnel the district may choose to hire to oversee it.
As with the cost of obtaining the land itself, these will be forever costs, which those who must pay taxes on their property will be forced to support.
We are asked to approve this referendum at a time when home foreclosures in Kane County are at record levels. Despite Mr. Hoscheit’s claims, purchase of additional land by the Forest Preserve District cannot be seen as a “bargain” under current economic conditions. For him to make such a statement, and for the district to ask for $30 million at this time, is the ultimate example of government disdain for the financial crises confronting taxpayers in Kane County.
Dennis C. Ryan