Chicago Park District Releases Balanced 2016 Budget Proposal

Chicago Park District General Superintendent and CEO Michael Kelly today released recommendations for the Chicago Park District's 2016 budget. The $458.1 million proposal offers a balanced budget that invests in the recreational needs of children and families in the 77 communities of Chicago.
The 2016 budget provides for the expansion of some of the District's most highly sought after programs, including gymnastics and aquatics to address the growing demand and wait lists. Additional highlights of the 2016 plan include:
  • The expansion of Night Out in the Parks programming from summer programming to a year-round arts and culture series.
  • A partnership with the Chicago Public Schools to focus on critical elementary grade sports programming.
  • The expansion of programs targeting teens, including a "Teens in the Park Festival" and workshops and events offering employment and career advice.
  • The expansion of Special Recreation programming to additional park sites throughout the city, as well as the growth of Special Olympics Spring Game participation.
  • Further integration of wellness and nutrition curriculum into other programs including afterschool/out of school time programming, youth sports and programs targeting veterans.

As in years past, the Chicago Park District budget will continue to support some of the city's finest cultural institutions such as Lincoln Park Zoo, Museums in the Parks (including 10 museums and an Aquarium), The Grant Park Music Festival, Afterschool Matters the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance with an investment of $42 million.

"Hundreds of thousands of families count on park programs and programs on parkland for athletics, cultural and social enrichment,” said Superintendent Kelly. “This budget delivers by expanding existing programming and creating new opportunities that keep residents of all ages active and engaged.”

For the ninth time in a period of ten years, the Chicago Park District budget comes with no property tax increase. Programs will face a modest hike, increasing by an average of 2% to maintain quality-- yet they remain affordable, and are well below the average of competing recreational facilities. As an example swim lessons by certified Chicago Park District aquatic instructors cost $3.00 per lesson, compared to up to $28 per lesson at competing facilities.

Families in need will still be able to access nearly $3 million in financial assistance thanks to fee waivers and existing program discount opportunities, such as multiple family registration discounts, active military discount, free youth golf and the free first Learn to Swim class.

"At the Chicago Park District, we measure our success by the number of children that come through our doors,” said Kelly. “We remain the best deal in town, and no child will be turned away for an inability to pay."

The 2016 spending plan is approximately $9.5 million higher than the FY2015 budget.

It fulfills a pension obligation of $30.8 million per the Pension Legislation Public Act 098-0622 for employees and retirees. It also funds increases in personnel hours needed to accommodate recent facility expansions such as La Villita Park in the Little Village Community and the 606 trail, both opened in 2015; and highly anticipated Quad/Ellis Park field house in Bronzeville and the Eleanor Boat House in the Bridgeport community scheduled to open next spring.

With minimal fee increases, the Chicago Park District also pursued cost savings and efficiencies in excess of $5.3 million in effort to create a balanced budgets.

Among those in 2016 will be restricting personnel increases to new programs, revenue generating, or cost cutting initiatives for a savings of $2M; implementing contractual services cuts - $1.8M; an organization-wide mandatory 2% non-personnel reduction; and the consolidation of underutilized facilities.

In addition, the District's downward sloping debt profile and recent debt refinancing will also positively impact its bottom line by lessening debt service payments in the year to come.

At $310 million, property taxes and personal property replacement tax make up the majority of Park District revenues. Revenue from privatized contracts, including Soldier Field, Harbors, golf courses, parking and the concession program, are expected to bring in $80 million. Soldier Field, which broke its record for monthly income this past summer and helped to boost tourism numbers in Chicago, will have another strong year welcoming Copa America Centennial Soccer Tournament, International Rugby and other major concerts and sporting events.

"Revenues raised from concerts and special events go right back to neighborhood parks," said Kelly.

The Chicago Park District proposed budget is available for viewing online now,  Residents may offer comments and suggestions online or at a public hearing at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, December 2 at 541 N. Fairbanks in the 8th floor board room.

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