Approved pension legislation, debt refinancing and revenues from boating and golf contribute to park resources and services provided to Chicago’s children and families
The Chicago Park District’s credit outlook was recently upgraded from negative to stable by Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Rating Services. The change is among the most recent events signaling strong fiscal health for the District which directly correlates to the resources and services available in neighborhood parks, including long-term capital investment.
The improved credit outlook reflects a number of accomplishments including the passage of pension legislation that fully funds the District’s pension by 2057 and strong financial results for fiscal year ending December 31, 2021. Other highlights include the District’s strong general fund reserves, debt refinancing that yielded a savings of $29.6 million and Personal Property Replacement Tax (PPRT) revenues exceeding budgeted projections by $46.6 million, largely due to a growing economy. In addition, a resurgence of golf and boating occurred with both revenues exceeding pre-pandemic levels. These earnings contributed significantly to supporting parks and vital park programming across the city.
“The financial health of the District is critical to the critical work we do to support the children and families and to providing healthy and recreational environments in every neighborhood in Chicago,” said Chicago Park District General Superintendent and CEO Rosa Escareño. The upgraded outlook is a direct result of the District’s commitment to fiscal responsibility. Even through the most challenging of times, we made sound decisions and leveraged opportunities to protect our taxpayers and the financial future of our former and existing employees while continuing to make much needed programmatic and capital investments.”
In 2021, the District dedicated $126 million to programming including the expansion of recreation opportunities for youth and adults with special needs. Inner City Hoops, Girls Fast Pitch Softball, Junior Bears, Park Kids, Day Camp and other staple programs returned to full capacity for the first time since the pandemic. New programs such as the citywide wrestling were also launched and Soccer for Success which was created to cultivate the growing interest in soccer and serves 1,000 children during its first year.
Construction on Park 596, which includes the Park District’s new headquarters, continued and will bring 17 acres of much needed parkland to the park and green space deprived Brighton Park community. Other capital investments include major renovations at Garfield Park, the construction of the Chicago Park District’s new headquarters in Brighton Park as well as fieldhouse improvements at Revere, Avondale, Blackhawk, Chopin, West Pullman and Hermosa Parks.
The Park District ended 2021 with General Fund revenues exceeding expenditures and financing uses by $23 million. To date, the financial results for the current 2022 fiscal year remain strong.
Earlier this week, a presentation was given to the Board on the 2021 Annual Comprehensive Financial Report (ACFR) and 2021 Popular Annual Financial Report (PAFR) as required by the Chicago Park District as a government agency and indicated in the District’s Code. These reports provide a detailed accounting for all Park District’s receipts, expenditures, liabilities, and resources for last year and accurately exhibits the agency’s financial condition. Although the District’s finances were impacted by the pandemic, parks continued to provide a seamless continuity of services while leveraging opportunities that will favorably shape the District’s financial health well into the future.