Forest Preserve District of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle submitted an ordinance to the Board today that would begin the process of allowing the District to issue new General Obligation Alternate Bonds for capital improvement projects and restructure existing debt. The ordinance was introduced and referred to the Finance Committee.
“Over the past 15 months, we’ve made great strides in making the Forest Preserve District more transparent, accountable and fiscally sound,” said President Preckwinkle. “Taking these steps will allow us to generate much-needed new capital improvement funding by capitalizing on favorable market conditions. Most importantly, we can do this in a way that’s budget-neutral and will not result in any tax increases for the residents of Cook County.”
The ordinance grants general authority to the Forest Preserve District for the issuance of new General Obligation Alternate Bonds. The proposed issuance authority is limited to $70MM, and the underlying transaction is expected to produce approximately $55-60MM in new funding. Later steps that will come before the Board, including restructuring outstanding District debt, are expected to generate an additional $50-$55MM in new funding as well as the possibility of additional refinancing savings.
In total, the maximum authority granted will be $190MM, although the underlying transactions are expected to generate approximately $100MM – $110MM in new capital improvement funding. The entire process is expected to be completed in June 2012.
The proceeds will be used to:
- Increase the land acquisition budget to allow for strategic purchases that will fill gaps in the 300-mile trail system and add to the District’s forests, prairies and savannas. The District is currently in the process of updating its Land Acquisition Plan, which will be used to guide the land acquisition priorities;
- Address decades of deferred maintenance issues, including repairs and replacements of existing bridges, plumbing systems, and other related needs. These projects will be selected from those outlined in the District’s 2012-2016 Capital Improvement Plan;
- Provide major exhibit renovations at the Brookfield Zoo and the Chicago Botanic Gardens, both of which are located on District and funded in part by the District.
- Fund new projects such as additions to camping and recreational offerings. The District is currently undergoing the process of developing new Master Camping and Recreation Plans in order to identify these projects.
“The Forest Preserves are one of our most valuable natural resources, and it’s critically important that we continue to invest in their future,” said Preckwinkle. “I look forward to working with Superintendent Randall and his team to accomplish the important goals of the District moving forward.”
About the Forest Preserves of Cook County
Don’t you sometimes just want to escape? Explore the natural beauty of Cook County for an hour, a day or even a night. When you’re surrounded by 70,000 acres of wild and wonderful there’s no better place to feel free.