Metro-East News

C.A.R.D board says $3 million should go toward debt, not park improvements

Eliminating Collinsville Area Park District could save residents money on property taxes

Dissolving the Collinsville Area Park District, or CARD, could save residents as much as 25 percent on property taxes. Collinsville and Maryville will still have to pay for the parks the communities acquired from CARD.
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Dissolving the Collinsville Area Park District, or CARD, could save residents as much as 25 percent on property taxes. Collinsville and Maryville will still have to pay for the parks the communities acquired from CARD.

Money leftover in a park district voters decided to dissolve should go toward paying off debt, not to the city of Collinsville’s parks and recreation department, park district board members argued this week.

A statement from the Collinsville Area Recreational District responded to a lawsuit the city filed on Tuesday in Madison County. The suit claims at least some of the $3 million leftover in the special taxing district fund should go toward the parks, not paying off the district’s debt.

“This lawsuit shows that the City of Collinsville has no grasp of the facts,” board member Mark Achenbach said in a prepared statement. “They are bringing this lawsuit simply as an effort to seize even more funds than they originally negotiated for. These funds can otherwise be used to pay off taxpayer debt.”

The city argues in its lawsuit the property tax was collected with the intention of using it for the district’s parks. Ownership and operation responsibilities of those parks went to the city of Collinsville and the village of Maryville.

But the district argues the remaining money was collected through means other than property taxes and can therefore be used to pay off debt, an estimated $21 million. Revenue from park operations contributed to the leftover money, the district claims.

The district also provided the city with money, equipment and other resources to help offset the cost of acquiring the parks, a statement from the district said.

The district board president says he is astounded the city would try to take some of the money.

“It simply astounds me that the city of Collinsville is attempting to prevent CARD from paying off debt on behalf of the taxpayers,” Ron Jedda said.

The state’s park district code, the district argues, requires the district to use the money to pay off remaining debt. Anything leftover after paying off debt should go toward local school districts, the law states.

“Collinsville’s lawsuit cites no law or statute explaining whey they would be allowed to seize this money and prevent it being used to pay off debts,” a statement from the district said.

Collinsville City Manager Mitch Bair said the leftover money is a drop in the bucket compared to the total debt. It is expected to take 20 to 25 years to pay off.

The city has argued the district is doing a disservice to taxpayers by not using the leftover money to improve neglected parks.

“The city of Collinsville is committed to its residents and taxpayers that park and recreation-related tax dollars be spent for park and recreation-related purposes,” the city said in a prepared statement sent Tuesday.

Kelsey Landis is a watchdog and local government reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat. She focuses on informing you about how public figures are using your tax dollars, and that includes keeping an eye out for wasteful spending.


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