With survey in hand, Park Board ponders referendum on Aug. 14

Kenilworth park commissioners will meet Aug. 14 to decide on a potential tax referendum to aid the Kenilworth Assembly Hall.

When they do so, they’ll do it knowing that a survey of park district residents appears to support both their takeover of the historic building, and the leveling of some sort of tax to maintain it.

If commissioners decide that survey results and the district’s own research back those ideas, they will also have decide how much of a so-called “ad valorem” flat tax they’d ask voters’ permission to institute.

That could range from $150,000, which current building owners say is the bare minimum to keep its doors open, to $300,000.

The meeting is set to start at 5 p.m. in Kenilworth Village Hall, 419 Richmond Road.

Park District Board members must decide by Aug. 18 whether to put a referendum on the ballot; that is ‘Cook County’s deadline for adding anything to the ballot, district Secretary Patrick Brennan said Aug. 4.

Although commissioners have officially been considering their potential part in the Assembly Hall’s future since last September, they were reluctant to make a decision until they tested public opinion.

Brennan, who is also Kenilworth village manager, said the community survey went out to more than 840 Kenilworth households earlier this summer, and 216 households responded. The response rate appears to buttress the survey results, he added.

The returns represent a household response rate of more than 25 percent; they also represent a per capita response rate of just under 10 percent, he said.

Of those responding to the survey, about 54 percent identified themselves as members of the Kenilworth Club, the private group that maintains the Assembly Hall, formerly known by the club’s name, and located at 410 Kenilworth Ave.

However, support for a park district takeover appeared to go beyond club members. More than 66 percent of respondents said they thought the district should assume ownership and operation of the hall.

An estimated 63 percent said they would support an increase in property taxes to operate and maintain building. Almost 29 percent said they’d back a tax that garnered $150,000 a year for maintenance; almost 25 percent stated they’d support a tax to bring in $200,000 for that purpose, while just under 15 percent would support raising $300,000 in taxes.

In July of 2013, the Kenilworth Club, a private group which has supported the assembly hall for decades, decided it could no longer continue paying for the building without taking on more non-community-based room rentals.

Since club members believed that violated the original mission of the hall as a community meeting place, they contacted the park district. The club also revived the Kenilworth Assembly Hall name as part of their efforts to disentangle themselves from the identity of the building.

The belief that the hall should be community based appears to be reflected in survey results. More than 67 percent of all respondents said the hall’s use should shift from a largely commercia,l event-based center to one that focuses more on community events.

David Kalainov, who heads both the new Assembly Hall Association and the Kenilworth Club, said Aug. 6 that he was pleased with the survey results because they indicate that Kenilworth residents understand the building’s importance as a central gathering place.

“If the referendum is on the November ballot, my hope is that the community would support the building the way they showed their support in the survey,” he said.

Kalainov said he believes that the hall could thrive with park district tax support, plus the addition of privately raised funds dedicated to building maintenance.

To that end, the assembly hall association created a charitable 501(c)(3) group called Friends of the Kenilworth Club. Once all the paperwork is completed, that group can raise money just for the building, he said.

More than half of those who sent survey responses back said they’d be willing to support the hall with donations.

HALL MONITOR

WHAT: Kenilworth park board meeting

WHEN: 5 p.m. Aug. 14, Village Hall

ISSUE: Kenilworth Assembly Hall support

HOW: potential November tax referendum

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