2019 Budget

President Preckwinkle Presents 2019 Budget Recommendation

Forest Preserves of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle introduced the 2019 Budget Recommendation to the Forest Preserves of Cook County Board of Commissioners on October 23, 2018.

To continue fostering its mission, the Forest Preserves of Cook County Fiscal Year 2019 budget request is $119.1 million, of which a total of $23.3 million is provided in support to institutional partners located on Forest Preserves land, the Brookfield Zoo and the Chicago Botanic Garden.

The total budget request represents an increase of 3.4 percent over 2018. Revenues to support this increase include an increase in the amount raised by the property tax levy totaling $2.7 million, which captures inflationary growth as in past budgets, and other non-tax revenues totaling $1.7 million.

The Corporate budget request, which funds the day-to-day operations of the District, is $61.7 million, an increase of 3.2 percent over last year. Approximately half of these funds cover cost-of-living adjustments included in collective bargaining agreements and increasing health care costs. The recommended increase to the Self Insurance Fund will be used to fund workers’ compensation expenses and other insurance claims.

The 2019 budget operationalizes specific goals outlined in the FPCC’s Next Century Conservation Plan, which was formally adopted in 2015 and provides the following goals:

  • Restoring ecological health and protecting the diversity of plants and animals that depend on the preserves.
  • Providing well-maintained buildings, trails and other facilities, and making them accessible to all county residents.
  • Increasing outreach to underserved communities and expanding educational and recreational opportunities for all residents.
  • Managing with excellence, transparency, and sound financial practice.

Over the course of 2018, the Forest Preserves have advanced these goals. The highest priority section of Cranberry Slough will be 70 percent clear of invasive brush by the end of the year, opening up a thousand acres at that site since 2015. Today 13,000 acres of land across the Preserves are in restoration or active maintenance.

The FPCC released the District’s first Sustainability & Climate Resiliency Plan in October, which commits the Forest Preserves to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050 and establishes a roadmap for Forest Preserves’ lands to be resilient in a changing climate.

The Forest Preserves finalized a cell tower installation contract at the Palos Maintenance Facility and created a list of priority sites to expand this revenue-generating opportunity. Year-to-date permit revenue as of the end of September was $1.7 million, a 9 percent increase over the same period last year.

The FPCC completed construction of 1.3 miles of the Cal-Sag Trail, including a bridge over the Little Calumet River, in partnership with the City of Blue Island. The Forest Preserves built three new nature play areas and installed new exercise stairs at Dan Ryan Woods.

The Conservation Corps program has grown to more than 280 high school youth and adults this year. A half dozen different summer and year-long Conservation Corps programs offer training, employment and exposure to conservation-related careers. For instance, 103 youth whose families are served by the Housing Authority of Cook County joined the Forest Preserves Experience Program, a paid summer internship. That was an increase of 44 percent from 2017.

The Preserves are a resource for everyone, and over the last several years the Forest Preserves has fostered an explicit mission to invite and engage diverse visitors from everywhere in the County and from all walks of life. New programs this year to bring in new groups and communities include Films from the Forest with the Chicago Park District, Blue Grass Jams, Camp Hip Hop, Painting by the Pond, and more.

The Forest Preserves can and will continue to serve the residents of Cook County within the boundaries of its proposed budget. However to successfully implement the Next Century Conservation Plan fully, the FPCC will require additional public resources.

As with previous years, these additional resources are not currently available and therefore the 2019 budget includes no scaling up of programs or services. The District also faces three other critical budget challenges that must be addressed in the near future: over-reliance on reserve funds for recurring annual costs, an on-going pension deficit, and a backlog of deferred maintenance.