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Urbana Park Board Puts Tax Referendum for New Aquatic Center on April Ballot

Voters in the Urbana Park District will be asked to approve an 11-cent property tax increase to help pay for a new outdoor swimming pool complex at Crystal Lake Park.

The Urbana Park Board voted Tuesday to place the question on the April 5 ballot. The increase would be added to a park district tax rate that is already higher than its counterpart in Champaign.

The old Crystal Lake Pool was shut down in 2008 due to electrical and other problems. Urbana Park Board President Michael Walker said having an outdoor pool in Urbana is important to the community, but he conceded that the tax hike request is a difficult one to make in the current economy.

"We understand it's not the best of economic times," Walker said. "The flipside of that is interest rates and construction costs are lower right now than they will be once the economy warms up a bit."

The proposed aquatic center would also be a more ambitious facility than the 1970s-era pool it would replace. Instead of a single pool, the $7.725 million aquatic center would include a multi-lane competition pool, a deep plunge pool with a drop slide, two leisure pools, and areas for picnics and sand play.

Walker says the larger facility is what Urbana needs.

"We've looked at some that were a bit more modest," he said. "The area where we're shooting for on this is about where you have to be to get the kind of usage that will justify the facility."

The Urbana Park District also operates an indoor aquatic center in conjunction with Urbana High School, but Walker said that is not enough to serve the community's needs.

If approved, the 11-cent tax referendum would come on top of a 15-cent property tax increase approved in 2009. That helped pay for park district operations, plus design work on the aquatic center. Walker says the Urbana Park District would also look for grants and private donations to help pay for the facility. Walker says the tax increase would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $37 a year.

Categories: Government, Politics