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Voters decide on a property tax increase to fund Cook County Forest Preserves

COOK COUNTY, IL — When Cook County residents head to the polls, they’ll see a referendum on protecting clean air, clean water and wildlife habitat.

If voters vote yes, the initiative will support land recovery and acquisition, increased programs and more jobs.

“As a permanent full-time job that doesn’t require higher education, but also basic conservation work, so kind of vocational training programs for youth and adults,” said Benjamin Cox, Friends for forest reserves‘ executive director.

A portion of the proceeds will also support the Cook County Forest Preserves pension program, says Arnold Randall, general manager of the Cook County Forest Preserves.

“There’s certainly a shortfall, so this will help us fully fund our pensions, which is about 20% of the total new revenue that will go toward that,” Randall said.

The average Cook County homeowner pays just over $40 a year, or less than one percent of their annual property tax bill, to the forest preserve. But if the referendum is approved, the owners can expect an increase in property taxes.

“For example, for a home assessed at $300,000, that would be about an extra $20 a year for the entire year, so an extra $1.66 a month on your property tax bill,” Randall said.

“We know that when lands are restored and free of invasive species, they do a better job of cleaning our air and filtering the fine particles that are a major cause of asthma,” Cox added.

On beautiful days and even on the not-so-scenic ones, Fiona Beser enjoys exploring Thatcher Woods with her furry friend Ollie, and says she’s grateful for the quick escape from city life.

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“I think it’s one of the only places you can go and smell the dirt and the leaves and the bugs,” Bezer said.

Groups that have been critical of the forest reserve’s mismanagement in the past have praised the direction of the current management. Current leaders say the initiative will also help with major improvements to Brookfield Zoo and the Chicago Botanic Garden.


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