CHICAGO -Lake County, Ill., voters will be asked in November to support $185 million in borrowing to finance new land purchases and preservation improvements in the growing county north of Chicago.

The Lake County Forest Preserve District board of commissioners Tuesday voted to put the bonding question to voters on the Nov. 4 general election ballot. The district hopes to sway voters to endorse the measure with the promise that no tax increase is needed. Officials also believes they can acquire new land at a bargain given the real estate market slump.

"Later this year, we will pay off some older bonds. This gives us a unique opportunity to replace those older bonds without increasing taxes," district president Bonnie Thomson Carter said in a statement. "If voters say yes, we will be able to take advantage of great land bargains now available. We'll also be able to open several new preserves, add trails, and restore natural areas throughout the county, without impacting taxpayers."

If voters reject the measure, the district warned that it would have to halt new land purchases. The district said a recent survey of registered voters shows support is strong for the referendum.

The district would use bond proceeds to acquire 2,500 to 3,000 acres to supplement its existing 26,500 acres of preserves. Supporters believe the time is right to act, while detractors said the district should instead issue a tax rebate once the existing debt is paid off.

Voters in the rapidly developing counties surrounding Chicago's Cook County face frequent referendums to preserve open space. Last year, voters in the far western Kane County endorsed an $85 million issue, while voters in the northwestern McHenry County endorsed a $73 million measure, and in the southwest, Kendall County voters approved $45 million.

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