Marengo city and park district will ask voters in March for sales tax increase and annexation approvals

City asking for road funding, park district wants to expand its footprint

Dan Bertrand, director of the Marengo Parks and Recreation District, spoke Thursday at the annual Marengo Union Chamber of Commerce Breakfast on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024.

When Marengo’s city staff first approached him about a potential sales tax referendum to fund road reconstruction, he was set against it, Mayor John Koziol said.

But after learning more about it, Koziol said Thursday morning at the Marengo Union Chamber of Commerce breakfast, he realized “we could do a lot of roads.”

The referendum seeks a 1% local sales tax for public infrastructure. The Marengo City Council voted in November to place the request on the March 19 primary election ballot.

Separately, the Marengo Park District is also seeking voter approval to annex all properties under 20 acres in Coral, Marengo and Riley townships that are not already in a park district, Dan Bertrand, park director, said.

The park district board first looked at that referendum question a year ago, prior to the spring municipal elections. However, the vote was scheduled too late. The board learned a week before the meeting that state law required a vote by Jan. 17 for placement on the April 4 ballot – two days before the scheduled board meeting.

The park district also wants to ask voters in Seneca Township if they also want annexation into a park district. However, an oddity of state law states “we cannot put more than three ballot questions on the same election,” Bertrand said.

Residents already within the Marengo Park District’s boundaries will also see the question on their ballot. Both groups – those already in the district and the areas its seeking to annex – must approve the question for it to pass.

If one or more of the questions fail, the district does plan on asking the question in a future election – potentially adding the Seneca Township question then, he said.

For each township that annexes into the park district, it could receive an additional $100,000 in property taxes, Bertrand said. That money needs to go to park and playground reconstruction as well as roads in the district, he said.

If the questions fail, Bertrand added, the park district will need to increase its fees for out-of-district users.

Road conditions are also an issue for the city of Marengo, Koziol said.

If approved by voters, the local sales tax is expected to generate $500,000 for road projects. Currently, the city spends $170,000 a year from Motor Fuel Taxes for resurfacing.

Once its roads are up to par in 15 to 20 years, the city could use funds from the sales tax increase for additional sidewalks or curb and gutter in subdivisions that do not have those, Koziol added.

Besides the Marengo request, voters throughout McHenry County will see a separate request for a 0.25% sales tax increase to fund mental health services.

Thursday, Bertrand also updated those at the breakfast about the district’s work to repurpose the former pool into The Venue, an outdoor performing arts and recreation space.

The park district was informed Tuesday it was awarded a $600,000 state Open Space Land Acquisition and Development Grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

While most of those grants require a 50-50 match between the public body and IDNR, the Marengo grant does not have the matching requirement as it is considered a needier district, Bertrand said.

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