When people shopping for a home look at a community, they want to know about the quality of life in a community. They look at the schools, the parks, the libraries and so forth.
In the Lan-Oak Park District, what they see at the parks isn't likely to impress them. The district needs a modest tax increase.
A 10-cent increase -- something the voters will decide on April 9 -- would mean raising the tax bill on a $116,000 home by roughly $38 a year. "It's one dinner out with my wife a year. That's it," Park Board member Pat Gulotta said.
The extra $450,000 raised by that increase would pay for capital improvements that are sorely lacking in the district.
Without the extra money, the picnic shelter at Lan-Oak and Erfert parks would be removed and not replaced. Antiquated playground equipment throughout the village would be removed and not replaced.
The park district, established in 1949, has just $125,000 a year for capital improvements for its 24 parks. Demand for recreation is growing, too. Almost 2,000 patrons use the fitness center, for example, and there aren't enough soccer fields to meet demand.
If the referendum for the 10-cent tax increase is successful, the top priority would be to demolish the Bock Park outdoor pool, which is no longer used. Abandoned buildings not only are eyesores, but also can be magnets for crime.
Renovation plans at Bock Park include additional soccer fields and other areas for youth and adult sports.
Investing in parks has been shown to increase property values. It also makes the parks better able to provide the recreational opportunities that can steer kids toward wholesome activities and keep them out of trouble.
The Lan-Oak Park District has tried and unsuccessfully in the past to get a tax increase. Agreeing to a tax increase is not an easy decision.
But voters should say yes on this April 9 referendum.
Parks are vital to not only the community's quality of life, but also to its property values. Grant this reasonable increase to maintain the parks.