Chicago Park District Board Approves 2014 Budget Proposal
Civic Federation calls budget a responsible, balanced approach
The Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners this evening voted to approve the District's 2014 budget proposal. Also supported by the Civic Federation and Friends of the Parks, the $425.6 million plan includes a balanced budget that increases programming at neighborhood parks while investing in the children and families of Chicago. The 2014 spending plan is approximately $14.6 million higher than the FY2013 budget.
"On behalf of the Board of Commissioners, I fully support the Chicago Park District's 2014 Budget," said President Bryan Traubert. "This financial plan not only outlines the District's commitment to fiscal responsibility but also allows for capital investments and the expansion of vital programming that will greatly impact the families and communities we serve."
The Civic Federation's Recommendations and Analysis calls this District's 2014 budget "...a financially responsible approach to reduce the District's ongoing structural deficit." The analysis goes on to say that the budget is "developing a balanced approach to the Chicago Park District's finances by more adequately aligning recurring revenues with operating expenditures, while pursuing comprehensive pension reform that will provide retirement security for District employees and financial stability and predictability for taxpayers."
Highlights of the 2014 budget include the expansion of Chicago Park District programs, including an expansion of the summer Night Out in the Parks series, growth in aquatics programming and increased staffing to meet the demands of expanding programs. The Park District works with residents to ensure that programming is affordable regardless of income level through discounts and scholarship opportunities.
"We are pleased that the Board of Commissioners, Friends of the Parks and the Civic Federation support this budget. Thousands of families count on park programs each day for sports, cultural and social enrichment," said General Superintendent & CEO Michael Kelly. "This budget invests in those families by expanding existing and creating new programming that keep the young people of our communities safe, and engaged."
The Park District pursued cost savings and efficiencies to help close the 2014 budget gap. For example, strategic health care changes saved $1.4 million, locking in favorable electricity and natural gas rates saved $1.8 million and an estimated $200,000 will be saved by using reverse auction services for the purchase and delivery of t-shirts and apparel with silk screening and embroidery. The 2014 budget does not increase rates for program fees, harbor fees or room rentals. Program discounts maintain level funding, as the Park District will continue to offer financial assistance, family discounts, military discounts and free youth golf. The budget plan includes a property tax increase of $3.6 million - the first increase in eight years - which will impact the average city homeowner by approximately $2.71 per year.
With a continued focus on children and families in 2014, the Chicago Park District will bring new programs and expand popular programs to serve more children and families annually, including:
Expansion of Night Out in the Parks: On the heels of the successful inaugural season of our "Night Out in the Park" series, large audiences and positive feedback have encouraged us to bring even more family-oriented, cultural opportunities to the parks. The program received $750,000 in NATO legacy funds in 2013. The city will continue to provide $750,000 to this program in 2014 by providing a portion of the revenue generated by the amusement tax increase. The 2014 encore season will feature 1,000 events - up from 750 in 2013 - bringing entertainment and cultural experiences to Chicago's neighborhoods.
Expansion of citywide Sports: The Chicago Park District will increase athletic opportunities in parks across the city with the expansion of basketball, boxing, gymnastics, rowing, tennis and lacrosse programs to attract more participants citywide.
Expansion of Aquatics Program: In 2014, the Park District will implement changes to better meet patron demand including reducing waitlists, extending weekend hours at select locations and piloting private rentals at park pools. In addition, the Park District will aggressively pursue lifeguard recruitment in under-represented communities.
Addition of Fitness Programs: Increased programs available across the city made possible through the Coca-Cola Park Family Wellness Grant.
Investment in Marketing and Technology: To better serve our customers, the 2014 budget allows for increasing public awareness in targeted communities and enhancing messaging to our general audience.
"We are pleased to see the successful 'Night Out in the Parks' expand," testified Erma Tranter, president of Friends of the Park. "...the Night Out programs, indeed, drew thousands and thousands of families with children into their neighborhood parks this year for cultural events that would not have otherwise been available in most neighborhoods."
Personal property replacement tax, property taxes, Soldier Field, Harbors, golf courses, parking and the concession program provide the majority of Park District revenues. Revenues from Soldier Field, budgeted at $30.4 million, will include the highly anticipated Coors Light NHL Stadium Series.
The last time the Park District asked property owners to contribute more to support parks was in 2005. Since that time, the Park District has grown exponentially, acquiring 900 acres of parkland, designing or completing 19 new facilities and creating or expanding hundreds of programs and events. In 2013, the Park District offered more than 20,000 activities, more than 304,000 residents registered for programs and tens of thousands of residents enjoyed our outdoor recreational spaces, which include the lakefront trail, beaches and parks. In addition to building or refurbishing 61 playgrounds across the city this year, the Park District has finished the construction of numerous public facilities, parks and recreational spaces, including Livingston Park, Park 523, Park 567, Ping Tom Boat House, Ping Tom Field House, Clark Park Boat House, Northerly Island Event Venue and four artificial turf fields.
"The Park District looked first to savings and efficiencies before turning to taxpayers," said Kelly. "The decision to increase property taxes was a difficult one, but it is necessary to maintain the financial health and stability of city's parks."