Lyons Township seeks tax relief for residents over bond issue to fund park improvements

Jane Michaels
jmichaels@pioneerlocal.com | @janemichaels22
July 23 11:20 a.m.

Efforts are underway to provide relief to taxpayers on about half of a $10 million bond issue to fund park improvements in Lyons Township.

The Township Board voted July 19 not to spend $5.4 million of the bond issue and instead retire the debt early to benefit taxpayers.

“Taxpayers will see relief on their tax bills in the coming years,” said township Supervisor William Mundy. “I can’t speak to how much that will be yet, but it’s the prudent thing to do.”

The board directed attorney Edward King to investigate the process of bond defeasance, or paying off the debt early to decrease interest costs while still satisfying investors. Though more complicated, the process is similar to paying off a mortgage early, King said.

The money became available after voters approved a 2004 referendum proposal to sell up to $10 million in bonds to acquire or develop park lands with the loss of the Timber Trails Golf Course to a housing development at Wolf and Plainfield roads. The township served as custodian of the bond funds.

Following an arduous process of proposal presentations and review, the Township Board awarded $4.2 million in February 2010 to 13 park districts or villages for outdoor recreation projects from 22 applicants.

A request from Save the Timber, the nonprofit group which spearheaded the 2004 referendum campaign, was rejected. The group wasn’t able to partner with a public taxing body with authority to maintain a portion of the former golf course land, as is required by state law.

“While this was a well-intentioned cause, maybe some of the people did not do all of the homework,” Mundy said. “Without being a public entity, they were not entitled to the funds.”

A proposal from a second nonprofit group, the Flagg Creek Historical Society, also was rejected because it didn’t meet state requirements for an outdoor project. The group had sought to build a $1.5 million museum.

“Everyone had the best of intentions, including the board, but things just didn’t work out the way everyone had hoped,” Mundy said.

Mundy said the board was pleased with the outcome of a number of the park bond projects, including $508,000 used for improvements to Denning Park in La Grange and a joint project to improve a Countryside park at Ideal School for $430,000.

Mundy said officials were in the process of finishing up awarding grant funds previously approved to villages and park districts in the township and deducting the cost of managing the bond program before calculating the savings to taxpayers.

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