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Rockford Park District Board of Commissioners Approves 2019 Budget; District Moving Forward with Five-Year Strategic Plan

ROCKFORD, IL – Tonight, Rockford Park District Board of Commissioners approved the 2019 budget, which reflects community identified priorities for the District and allocation of resources such as taxpayer dollars.

In order to reach a balanced budget, the District needed to eliminate an $800,000 deficit along with continued suspension of operation for the Forest City Queen and Trolley Car 36 (except for City Market, All Aglow, and private rentals) along with seeking privatization, keeping Sand Park Pool closed for another season due to IEPA mandated remediation, closing Alpine Hills golf course, and implementing modest fee and membership increases in golf operations.

A balanced budget was only achieved due to the following:

  • Six Flags leasing and operating Magic Waters Waterpark for 10 years, with three 10-year options to renew

  • Reallocation of $250,000 of Reclaiming First hotel tax funding to help reduce tax subsidy at UW Health Sports Factory

  • Non-tax revenue generators such as expanded food and beverage operations, video gaming at select facilities, increased sponsorships, and increased fees and memberships. The District has not had any major fee increases for the last five years.

  • Reduction in team members – Three full-time positions eliminated due to attrition. Since 2009, an 11% reduction has been made in full-time positions while adding more than 20 parks, playgrounds, parking areas, paths, or new recreational amenities such as Snow Park at Alpine Hills, Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens, Mercyhealth Sportscore Two expansion, Olson Swedish Heritage Park, UW Health Sports Factory, and a food and beverage department.

This is the fifth year in a row the Rockford Park District has elected not to increase tax dollars, resulting in saving taxpayers more than $2 million.

“We relied heavily on the community’s feedback in making these difficult budget decisions and holding the line on taxes. The District is focused on identifying ways to reduce our overall dependency on property tax revenue as we continue to work toward achieving the priorities established by our citizens, and providing them with a vibrant and relevant park system,” said Rockford Park District Board of Commissioners President Ian Linnabary.

District Discusses Ways to Reduce Footprint

In September, the Board of Commissioners unanimously approved master plan recommendations that represent the communities’ priorities for the District, and are the driving force behind revised District priorities and a first-ever five-year strategic plan. The 2019 – 2023 strategic plan includes areas to reinvest in, strategically add, eliminate, suspend, or reduce. Since 1909, the District has expanded its footprint to more than 180 facilities, parks, paths, and natural areas. Currently, all amenities are being analyzed to determine potential opportunities for sale, lease, or disposal to reduce the footprint of the District and free up resources to be reinvested into other priority areas established by community feedback.

Rockford Park District Board of Commissioners heard a presentation tonight regarding the sale of 1401 North Second Street, Rockford which was the District’s former administration building. William Charles Ltd. has leased the building since April 1, 2006 and is interested in purchasing the building.

“Throughout the 2018 community engagement, we heard from the taxpayers that a way to help address our financial challenges is to reduce the overall footprint of the District. We believe our former administration building no longer serves a recreational or strategic need for the District. The sale of the building will free up resources to invest in other priority areas and will also eliminate future capital needs of the building. The citizens were clear in their direction of resources going towards neighborhood parks, playgrounds, and youth programs. We believe this is a perfect example of their direction,” said Rockford Park District Executive Director Jay Sandine.

Due diligence tasks are currently underway (environmental assessment/property survey, etc.) tied to facilitating a potential property sale. Following the completion and review of the due diligence items, the Board of Commissioners will take a final vote regarding the sale of the leased property. The sale would not have any impact on Sinnissippi Park amenities or popular events such as Festival of Lights, Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition, and Music in the Park.

Mike Costello