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Voters to consider McHenry Recreation Center expansion, school referendums

Voters to consider Rec Center expansion, school renovation funding

McHenry-area residents will have a chance to vote on two referendums that could allow the city and school district to issue bonds that will allow for major improvements to existing facilities.

The city of McHenry and McHenry High School District 156 each have one referendum on the upcoming ballot. Only residents within McHenry’s corporate limits will be affected by the city’s request, and anyone who pays taxes to District 156 will be affected by its referendum.

$30M for Recreation Center

City officials want to expand the McHenry Recreation Center and pool. The proposed layout of the new aquatic center would include a lazy river, diving well, leisure swimming area, water slides and spray pad. The existing swimming pool at Knox Park is 30 years old and is near the end of its useful life.

“So many residents leave right now to go to the Stingray Bay [Family Aquatic Center] and the Woodstock Water Works,” Parks and Recreation Director Bill Hobson said. “This mimics that with as many elements as we could.”

The multimillion-dollar Recreation Center opened in 2016 and was built with $4 million in funding the department had saved from developer donations over the years. It was designed with space allotted for an indoor pool addition and expansion. The proposed indoor pool would include a lap pool and warm water pool. An expanded Recreation Center would include a new gymnasium with a suspended walking track, according to city documents.

Officials originally said the proposal would cost residents with a $168,000 home about $180 annually in property taxes for 20 years. The cost of the final project has not yet been determined, but it would not exceed $30 million if the referendum passes.

It likely will be at least a year or two before the payments toward the bonds hit the tax rolls, Hobson said.

He also said that overall property taxes are projected to go down because both of McHenry’s school districts have bonds set to expire by 2020.

A McHenry resident with a $200,000 home pays about $8,200 in property taxes annually. Those taxes are split between multiple taxing districts, including the city of McHenry, McHenry Township, McHenry Township road district, McHenry Public Library, McHenry Township Fire Protection District, McHenry County College, McHenry County Conservation District, McHenry County and the two school districts.

McHenry School District 15, which serves students in kindergarten through eighth grade, has bonds that will expire in April 2020. Residents with a $200,000 home will pay about $300 less in taxes toward the district after those are gone, according to city documents.

District 156 also has bonds set to expire, but officials intend to ask voters in November via a referendum to issue
$44 million to revamp its two high schools.

$44M for District 156

The district plans to renovate McHenry West and turn McHenry East into a “freshman only” school if the referendum passes.

Projects would include priority life and safety projects at East and West campuses, the expansion of West Campus and elimination of the aging mobile classrooms. The district also would implement a science, technology and industry center at McHenry West.

The proposal includes plans to house all freshmen at McHenry East and send students in grades 10 through 12 to the expanded McHenry West. The proposal could be in place by the 2020-21 school year, district officials said.

A resident with a $200,000 home pays about $273 toward the district’s expiring bonds. If the referendum is approved, those payments would be replaced, and the same taxpayer would pay about $208 annually in property taxes to pay for the new building bonds, which would take
20 years to pay off, according to district documents.

If the high school referendum and the city’s Recreation Center referendum both pass, a taxpayer will pay about $8,046 in property taxes in 2020, down $154 from what they pay now because of the lowered payments from the school districts, according to city documents.

If the high school referendum does not go through but the Recreation Center referendum does, a resident can expect to pay about $7,836 in property taxes, or $364 less than what he or she pays now, according to city documents.

The final effect of the rec center referendum has yet to be determined. Taxes would not be levied until the project has been put out for bid and a final price has been established.

Mayor Wayne Jett has said he supports both referendums.

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