Voters in the Collinsville Area Recreation District (CARD) will have the opportunity to dissolve the financially strapped district after thousands showed support for getting the referendum onto the November ballot.
Petition drive organizer Derrick Keith Cox, a Collinsville Township trustee, said that over a two month period supporters collected more than 6,750 signatures to qualify the question for the ballot. He said the figure represents 28 percent of all registered voters in the district, well above the minimum 20 percent required.
Dozens of local citizens participated in gathering signatures, including Chris Delaney of Collinsville who collected more than 100 petitions.
"Nearly everyone who answered their door was eager to sign the petition," Delaney stated in a release. “It helped that all the units of local government; Collinsville, Maryville, Glen Carbon, Pontoon Beach and Collinsville Township, had already passed resolutions endorsing the dissolution of CARD."
Cox indicated that while citizens can initiate such a referendum, it is ultimately up to the district's board of commissioners to determine which election the question will be put to voters.
CARD board president Ron Jedda of Collinsville, who supports the effort, said that while it appears as if there is popular support for dissolution, a two-thirds majority vote is necessary for success, versus a simple majority.
Cox and Jedda have stated that dissolving the district is in CARD taxpayers’ best interest because, while they still will be on the hook for paying off the accumulated $23 million in debt, their tax liability will be reduced because under dissolution they would not pay for CARD operations in addition to the debt.
“The dissolution of CARD is in the best interest of everyone," stated Cox. “CARD no longer owns or manages any of the parks, including Splash City and Willoughby Farm. These assets are now owned by the City of Collinsville or the Village of Maryville."
Once dissolved, Cox said the average homeowner will save approximately half the amount they have historically paid on their property tax bill to CARD. The remaining amount will be applied to paying off the long term debt owed by CARD.
In addition, municipalities will be eligible for state grant money to help take care of the parks and assets they now own, he said.
Cox said he was proud of the volunteers who came together to help with the petition drive.
"These citizens want lower property taxes and better parks," he stated. "We knocked on well over 9,000 doors. All of this just to give the citizens the opportunity to vote.”