Park Ridge breaks down costs for Youth Campus park pitch
A rendering of plans for the Park Ridge Youth Campus if voters approve a Park Ridge Park District referendum on April 9.
THE QUESTION FOR VOTERS
“Shall the Park Ridge Recreation and Park District, Cook County, Illinois, acquire land known as the Youth Campus (11.35 acres), build and equip improvements and demolish some of the 12 buildings thereon and issue its bonds to the amount of $13.2 million for the purpose of paying the costs thereof?”
Updated: April 1, 2013 6:26AM
PARK RIDGE — Voters will decide on April 9 whether or not to support an increase in property taxes in exchange for new recreational opportunities at the former Park Ridge Youth Campus.
But exactly where will these tax dollars go if the referendum is approved? And what’s next for the property if the Park Ridge Park District is not the purchaser?
A breakdown of the $13.2 million bond referendum amount shows the bulk of the cost — $6.4 million — would pay for the purchase of the 11-plus acre site at 733 N. Prospect Ave., a group home for much of its 100-year history.
Other costs covered under the bond issue include landscape design ($3.2 million); renovation of Wohlers Hall to accommodate administrative functions that currently take place at the Maine Leisure Center ($1.4 million); the construction of a multi-purpose, 2,500-square-foot building to be used for rentals and programming ($825,400); demolition of eight existing buildings on the site ($678,600); the construction of concession stands and restrooms ($520,300); project planning studies needed to determine additional costs, such as building evaluations for structural integrity ($141,900); and environmental-related work on the property ($35,000).
The park district is planning to pay off the $13.2 million loan over a period of 20 years, which means, with interest, the total amount paid by taxpayers will be closer to $18 million, officials said.
For taxpayers, the annual property-tax increase will average about $72 for the owner of a $458,000 home, according to the park district. The higher tax rate will remain in place over the 20 years of the bond issue, though it could potentially be extended if the park board wishes to do so, Executive Director Gayle Mountcastle indicated.
Amenities planned for the site include the creation of a sports field along the eastern portion of the property, a walking trail around the site, an outdoor performing arts area, two paddle tennis courts, a spray pad, playground, open fields, picnic area, an open area for winter ice skating, parking lots and park shelters.
The park district estimates that the proposed amenities will generate roughly $149,390 in revenue annually, plus an additional $246,176 at the Maine Leisure Center which Mountcastle said will accommodate more programming when administrative functions are relocated to the Youth Campus.
Expenses at the Youth Campus are projected to be $267,307 annually, not including added costs at Maine Park for new programs or the annual bond payments. Director of Finance Christine Berman said the park district’s payments would be roughly $900,000 per year and paid through the increased tax rate.
Determining expenses and revenue from the new amenities at the Youth Campus was based on several factors, according to park district officials. Mountcastle explained that some projections were based on current costs in other areas of the park district (grass cutting and electricity, for example). Figuring expenses and revenue for things like the splash pad or paddle tennis courts — which Park Ridge does not currently have — reportedly required research.
“It was definitely more of a ‘guesstimate’ based on other park districts,” said April Armer, superintendent of recreation.
Two park district budgets that were explored when looking at the cost and financial benefit of the splash pad and paddle tennis included Glen Ellyn and Westmont, Mountcastle said.
The Park Ridge Park District is looking at charging membership and daily fees for both amenities.
Mountcastle acknowledged that there is no way of knowing for certain whether revenues will come in as projected, but did point out to the Park Board on Feb. 21 that there was a $900,000 surplus in the operating fund last year.
“To say we’re over-extending ourselves just isn’t true,” she said.
Existing instructors will likely be used for programming at the campus and part-time maintenance workers and attendants will be added.
“At this time we are not anticipating adding any full-time positions because of this property,” Mountcastle said.
Discussion of a potential new name for the site has not yet taken place, according Mountcastle.
“This will be addressed if the park district acquires the property,” she said.
The Youth Campus organization, which has partnered with Children’s Home + Aid since the closure of the Park Ridge group home, still owns the property.
Kevin Buggy, co-chairman of the Youth Campus Board, said no plans currently exist for the property should the referendum fail and the park district not purchase it.
“There has not been any specific talks with other potential buyers,” he said. “There is not a ‘Plan B’ in place right now, but most likely it would be put back on the market and sold.”
Buggy added that he expects the majority of interested bidders would be developers. A housing developer expressed interest in a portion of the campus last year when the park district was considering buying the remaining 40 percent of the land.