The Forest Preserve District’s Board of Commissioners approved a balanced 2019 budget on Thursday, November 8, that features a $775,000 capital enhancement plan for preserve and trail improvements.
The $40.5 million spending plan includes a $16.8 million operating budget and a $14.4 million corporate fund property tax levy, which will pay for District operations in 2019. The 2018 (payable in 2019) corporate property tax rate will be 0.0677 as compared to the current year’s extension of 0.0687, a 1.5 percent reduction.
“The District’s property tax rate continues to go down,” said Ray Tuminello, finance committee chairman. “As a result of the District paying off its 1999 capital appreciation bonds and holding the line on operating expenses, the 2018 estimated total property tax rate is decreasing more than 22 percent when compared to the previous year’s extension.”
Over the past six years, the District has paid down approximately $85 million of its long-term general obligation bonds, said John Gerl, the District’s chief financial officer.
“As a result of continuing to pay down its general obligation debt, the District continues to present a very strong balance sheet, which is one reason why rating agencies have given the Forest Preserve a AA+ credit rating,” he said. “AA+ is the second-highest credit rating available.”
The budget includes a $300,000 appropriation for the District’s infrastructure, maintenance and replacement program, which will maintain the Forest Preserve’s trails, parking lots and bridges.
Budget highlights include:
- A major connection along Black Road that will link the DuPage River Trail in Shorewood with the Rock Run Greenway Trail in Joliet. The trail link will include pedestrian bridges over Interstate 55 and the DuPage River. The project was delayed in 2018 when ComEd hit bedrock as it worked to move the utility lines under the river. The problem was resolved and the work will continue in 2019.
- A new shelter at Isle a la Cache Preserve in Romeoville. This shelter will be big enough to accommodate 200 people and to host events and a variety of educational programs. Also, accessibility improvements will be made to the preserve’s walkways and amphitheater.
- The trailhead at Schneider’s Passage along the Centennial Trail in Romeoville will be upgraded with expanded and improved parking, a new latrine and benches. The bid for this work was awarded at the November 8 Board meeting.
- A new, larger event shelter will be built at Whalon Lake in Naperville. The shelter will accommodate 200 people and it will replace a smaller lakeside shelter that has a 25-person capacity.