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Vote On Funding For Forest Preserves Passes

The property tax increase would equate to about $1.66 a month, or less than $20 a year, for an average Cook County homeowner.

Forest Glen Woods
Dawn Rhodes/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — A vote asking Cook County residents if they’d pay more taxes to better fund the local forest preserves was approved Tuesday.

The referendum asked if voters would back a .025 percent increase in Cook County property taxes to support the Forest Preserves of Cook County and protect clean water sources, air quality and wildlife in Cook County.

As of Wednesday morning, about 69 percent of voters supported the question with 90 percent of precincts reporting, according to results from WGN. The result is not binding, meaning it will not automatically go into effect.

“It’s clear that people deeply appreciate all the benefits the Forest Preserves of Cook County provides, starting with access to nature so close to home,” forest preserves Supt. Arnold Randall said in a statement “It’s exciting to see. Our work begins [Wednesday] on enacting plans to expand ecological restoration work, add more land to the preserve system, address critical long-term needs, continue to grow our programming and public outreach, and more.”

The property tax increase would equate to about $1.66 a month, or less than $20 a year, for an average Cook County homeowner, Deborah Halpern, co-chair of the group’s environmental action committee, previously said.

More than 150 local organizations and companies endorsed supporting the referendum, Halpern said.

“In essence, the Cook County Forest Preserves are analogous to the national parks in the country. They are our local national parks,” Halpern previously said, adding that they make up a large swath of the land in Cook County. “They have not asked for an increase in the property taxes since the 1930s. This is the first time in almost 100 years that they’re asking for a raise.”

RELATED: A Women Voters Group Is Urging Support For A Property Tax Hike For Cook County Forest Preserves

Forest Preserves of Cook County officials said on its website the referendum “is an opportunity for voters to decide if they want to make an investment in the Forest Preserves for the decades to come.”

Additional funding will provide protections and restoration work for wildlife habitats that are home to plants and animals native to the area, including threatened or endangered species, organizers said. It will also support cleaning efforts for the waterways and floodplains, and additional programs, events and outreach for local schools, Halpern said.

More money will also help expand and maintain trails and signs, make amenities more energy efficient and accessible, help solve the pension shortfall at the Cook County Forest Preserves and address capital needs at the Brookfield Zoo and Chicago Botanic Garden, organizers said.

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