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Germantown Hills voters will see tax, athletic complex questions on November ballot

A rendering for the proposed athletic complex in Germantown Hills, between Illinois Route 116 and Town Hall Road.
Germantown Hills School District 69
A rendering for the proposed athletic complex in Germantown Hills, between Illinois Route 116 and Town Hall Road.

Will a long-planned athletic complex finally make it off the drawing board and into Germantown Hills? It's one of two big questions voters will settle next month.

Voters in the Germantown Hills school district are asked to approve issuing $7 million worth of bonds to construct an athletic complex on the vacant land along Illinois Route 116 between the Whispering Oaks subdivision and the Illinois State Police District 8 headquarters.

Planning for the complex began back in 2006. The Germantown Hills Athletic Association initial spearheaded the effort for years, but it's repeatedly run into money challenges. Eventually, community leaders came to the conclusion that a taxing body would need to issue bonds to bring the project to fruition.

"The problem is while we had the property, we just could not fund the what would go on the property. There was just no way we could fundraise that amount of money. And it wasn't through a lack of effort," said Dan Mair, the superintendent of Germantown Hills School District 69.

Mair said the planned facility will have four ball diamonds, with one dedicated to girls' softball and another to boys' baseball. The other two fields would be shared. Two of the fields would be lit up. Plans also call for a regulation soccer field, playground, walking path, gazebo and an indoor facility for restrooms and batting cages.

"We're very confident that's going to have a significant impact," said Mair. "And not only for Germantown Hills, but for Metamora, for any teams that might be traveling to the east and wanting to get on the road. But we're very excited to see what it'll do for us, with those lighted fields and an increase in a tournament style facility. We're really positive that we're going to see a boost to our economic impact."

A new roadway would connect Route 116 to Town Hall Road. The school district is also applying for an Illinois Department of Transportation grant to build a pedestrian overpass spanning Route 116 from the school to Arbor Vitae, across the highway. That project isn't tied to the referendum, though Mair said it's a longtime safety priority for both the village and school district.

Revenues from the school facilities sales tax approved by Woodford County voters in 2018 would make up around 60% of the annual bond payments on the athletic complex. That money would abate the amount levied for the bonds. Bond payments for the athletic complex would be smaller than those currently paid on the bonds used to fund a 2017 school consolidation project, with payments stretching through 2042.

"If it passes or it fails, at least, you know, we gave it a shot. There was never any doubt that we weren't going to take this to the voters. This is a community decision," Mair said.

The Germantown Hills school district is also seeking to raise its maximum education tax levy for the first time since 1991. The 30 cent per $100 dollars of estimated assessed value of a property, from $1.73 to $2.03. That's about a 17% increase. It's estimated to generate an additional $478,510 in tax revenues for the school district.

Mair said if both referenda pass, he actually predicts the overall tax rate would decrease, not increase. Even with the increased education tax levy and athletic complex bonds, he said the overall tax rate would still be lower than what residents are paying now on school consolidation bonds.

The tax increase would also keep the school district's education fund healthy, Mair said.

"We're not going to be a sinking ship in the next couple of years. But in a couple of years, our reserves are going to be depleted pretty quickly. So at that point, it's an issue of, do we issue different types of bonds to be able to make ends meet in our education fund," he said.

Mair said if one referenda fails and the other passes, the one approved by voters will continue, regardless.

The Germantown Hills School District is holding an information town hall meeting on Oct. 26 at 6 p.m. at the JDS Gymnasium.

The general election is Nov. 8. Early voting and voting-by-mail started on Sept. 29.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.