Arlington Heights voters rejected the park district’s $39 million referendum with 51.35 percent of the vote Tuesday, Nov. 6.
“It’s just devastating,” said Maryfran Leno, president of the Arlington Heights park board, “The only word that could wrap it up, is devastating.”
A difference of 863 votes, the district’s bond issue failed with 16,440 ‘NO’ votes to 15,577 ‘YES’ votes. A nail-biter, click here to see how the referendum results unfolded Tuesday night.
“A lot of people complain they want better facilities or more programs, but no one is willing to pay for it,” said Leno.
A proposal to improve parks at the cost of higher property taxes, the Arlington Heights Park District $39 million proposal included building renovations and some new additions to enhance recreation opportunities at all locations for years to come.
If the $39 million proposal had passed, the average Arlington Heights homeowner's property taxes would have increased an average of $71 each year until 2037, park district figures show.
“The fear factor here is people don’t want their property taxes to go up,” Leno said, “And this community is split on whether they want to spend money on parks and recreation or not.”
This is the second time voters have rejected a property tax increase to improve parks this year. In March, Arlington Heights residents voted down a similar, $48 million referendum with 52 percent of the vote.
After the $48 million bond issue failed in the spring, the district reworked the plans, shaved $9 million off the proposal and launched an informational campaign to gain support and spread the word about the referendum before the November vote.
“Knowing what we went through I just really hoped the majority of voters would be voting yes,” Leno said, “Obviously that didn’t happen.”
According to Tuesday night’s voting tallies, with more than 30,000 ballots cast, the 51.35 percent of voters who said no to the $39 bond issue were countered by 48.65 who voted for it.
“It’s disappointing and it’s deflating,” said Leno, “This community really is split right down the middle.”
Alongside elected officials, staff and fellow board members, Leno awaited the results at Arlington Lakes Golf Club Tuesday night.
Leno said, “It’s definitely not what we were hoping for.” When the results came in Leno said the watch party got quiet, the room somber. “It was just devastating,” said Leno, “Now we have to figure out how to move forward.”
Buildings will continue to deteriorate and instead of being modernized, Leno said, and the parks will continue to fall back in time. The park board will now need to come up with ways to serve and house the community’s needs in the near and far future, she said.
“The needs are there, construction prices are down and interest rates are low,” Leno said, “To do this project three or four years down the road, it’s going to be a significantly higher dollar amount.”
At this time, Leno said the board has no plans to put a park bond proposal back to voters. The next time Arlington Heights voters could see a referendum on the ballot would be in April 2013.