NEWS

Lisle residents oppose plan to refinance sports complex debt

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A group of Lisle residents is urging the village to postpone a planned refinancing of $4.2 million of debt incurred during the building of the Lisle-Benedictine University Sports Complex 12 years ago.

Carolyn Bartelli and other residents want voters to have the opportunity to decide in November if Lisle should be allowed to refinance the debt.

"This is all being done without the benefit of the taxpayers' knowledge," Bartelli said of a borrowing plan that Lisle trustees decided last month to pursue. "It should be put to the voters."

Bartelli and about 20 volunteers for the past month have been trying to collect signatures from 1,078 registered voters Lisle. If the residents succeed, Lisle would be forced to cancel a June 6 bond sale and put the issue on the November ballot.

However, the deadline for submitting the petition is Thursday.

"What we really would like them (trustees) to do is to just put it on the ballot with no signatures," said Lisle resident MaryLynn Zajdel, who is assisting the petition drive. "They are fully capable of doing this."

The cause of the current debate dates back to 2004, when the Lisle village board authorized the borrowing of about $6.4 million in tax-backed bonds to help pay for the complex near the intersection of Yackley/College Road and Maple Avenue.

Lisle and the university worked together to build the more than $11 million complex, which includes a 3,000-seat lighted football and soccer stadium. The stadium also has a nine-lane running track.

Benedictine paid for part of the complex, including baseball and softball fields.

Before the complex was built, officials said they hoped to attract regional and national track and field events and bring in out-of-towners to boost weekend stays in Lisle hotels. The village raised the hotel-motel tax from 3 percent to 5 percent -- the maximum allowed -- to raise the money needed to pay off the loan.

But with the bonds set to retire in 2024, village leaders say the hotel-motel tax increase alone hasn't generated enough revenue to cover a balloon payment of more than $2.3 million that's due at the end of the loan.

"We are looking to refinance the bonds, in part, to take advantage of better interest rates," Village Manager Jerry Sprecher said. "We also want to create a situation where -- instead of having a balloon payment at the end -- we level it off so we can still manage it within what we're taking in from the (hotel-motel) tax right now."

If new bonds are issued, the payments would be extended to 2033.

Sprecher said officials considered the possibility using money from the village's reserves to help repay the debt. However, that idea was rejected by Lisle trustees.

Sprecher said one reason the hotel-motel tax failed to create enough revenue to pay off the debt is because of the closure of the Hickory Ridge Marriot Conference Hotel in late 2011.

The general economic environment also is to blame.

"There's more hotel competition, and there's been some issues with the slowdown in the economy," Sprecher said.

Revenues generated from the sports complex could have gone to pay off the bonds. But the complex hasn't generated a profit to make that happen.

Still, Zajdel said that doesn't mean the village should borrow more money without voter approval.

"The reason to get this on the ballot is to shine more light on what's going on, to make people understand that the original plan didn't succeed at all and to come up with a better solution," Zajdel said.

Anyone interested in signing the petition can email Bartelli at LisleLARG@gmail.com.

 

Source : dailyherald.com