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Forest Preserve District Budget

 

FY21 Forest Preserve Budget, click here

 

A "YES" Vote for Cook County Forest Preserve 2021 Pandemic Budget and a Renewed Call

for a Referendum to Save Our Forest Preserves

On November 17, 2020, I voted for a pandemic maintenance 2021 Cook County Forest Preserve District Budget because it is the best, we can do in this COVID world. The reality is that all our revenue sources have been adversely affected by COVID and the recession. This budget does the best that can be done to use reserve funding and excellent management to let the District survive to live another year.

A year ago, I voted No on the 2020 budget because it failed to protect the work that had been done to restore our land and had no long-range plan. I had hoped the voters would pass a tax referendum during either the 2020 General Primary or the 2020 General Election. Unfortunately, there was not the will on the Forest Preserve Board to put the issue on the ballot. Therefore, the voters were denied an opportunity to set a positive financial course for the District.

This budget is the fourth caretakerís budget which does not address the actual needs to protect our land resources and strengthen the commitment to the future. In the past 4 years I have called for a referendum to give our voters a voice to increase real estate tax funding to do three things: 1. Approve funds to expand restoration services on our land; 2. Acquire additional land while some still exists; and 3. Increase our subsidies to the Brookfield Zoo and the Chicago Botanic Garden. Without the referendum we are stuck with limited revenues and no vision for the future.

Our Forest Preserves land survives because of the thousands of hours that our volunteers give to protect our vast and diverse holdings. We all owe these dedicated volunteer workers a thank you for their service.

As a Non-Home Rule unit of local government, the Forest Preserve District can only raise funds through property taxes, fees, or any other authorization the Illinois General Assembly may grant. Tax cap limits on non-home rule units of governments have crippled the Forest Preserve Districtís ability to keep up with inflation. In addition, unfunded mandates from the State have put a pension burden on the District as well as limited our ability to properly protect the land.

A referendum would have given the voters the right to decide what level of taxation would have been appropriate. The referendum campaign would have highlighted the stormwater protection our lands provide all, the carbon reduction our trees and other vegetation provide to improve our air quality and the recreational and educational opportunities the land offers. Unfortunately, the positive discussion this campaign would have raised never happen.

Now the 2021 budget is the best we can do because of the limitation COVID has given us.

This Budget is the sixth to have input from the Conservation Council whose role is to help us create a clear vision for the future. The Council has called for the last six years to expanded land restoration and land acquisition. COVID will not allow for this vision.

The Budget maintains the current level of support for the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Brookfield Zoo. This funding level does not allow them to adequately serve the public. Before COVID millions of people visit and learn about conservation and the environment from these two jewels that anchor our outreach and educational programming. Neither the Garden nor the Zoo can continue their level of excellence without increased funding. Last yearís budget forced us to increase fees to help the Garden and the Zoo survive.

Finally, this budget is the best we can do in the COVID/recession world we find ourselves. Next year I look forward to a firm commitment for a referendum and a COVID free budget.

 

 

Statement from Com. Larry Suffredin: A "NO" Vote for Cook County Forest Preserve 2020 Budget and a Renewed Call for a Referendum to Save Our Forest Preserves

On November 19, 2019, I voted against a maintenance 2020 Cook County Forest Preserve District Budget that failed to protect the work that has been done to protect our land. This budget is a third caretakerís budget in a row that does not address the actual needs to protect our land resources and strengthen the commitment to the future. In the past 3 years I have called for a referendum to give our voters a voice to increase real estate tax funding to do three things: 1. Approve funds to expand restoration services on our land; 2. Acquire additional land while some still exists; and 3. Increase our subsidies to the Brookfield Zoo and the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Our Forest Preserves land survives because of the thousands of hours that our volunteers give to protect our vast and diverse holdings. We all owe these dedicated volunteer workers a thank you for their service. These volunteers have called for us to put a referendum on the March 2020 ballot to increase property taxes to cover necessary expenses. After much discussion it became clear that there was not enough support on the Board to place such a referendum on the ballot. Our failure to act places the future of the Forest Preserve District in great jeopardy.

As a Non-Home Rule unit of local government, the Forest Preserve District can only raise funds through property taxes, fees or any other authorization the Illinois General Assembly may grant. Tax cap limits on non-home rule units of governments have crippled the Forest Preserve Districtís ability to keep up with inflation. In addition, unfunded mandates from the State have put a pension burden on the District as well as limited our ability to properly protect the land.

A referendum would have given the voters the right to decide what level of taxation would have been appropriate. The referendum campaign would have highlighted the stormwater protection our lands provide all, the carbon reduction our trees and other vegetation provide to improve our air quality and the recreational and educational opportunities the land offers. Unfortunately, the positive discussion this campaign would have raised will never happen. The will of the voters will never be known.

For the last three years I have stated that the budgets were the best we can do; but we must do better. Now the simple need for more financial resources to protect and acquire land will be in the hands of the General Assembly which must grant us relief from tax caps.

This Budget is the fifth to have input from the Conservation Council whose role is to help us create a clear vision for the future. The Council has called for the last five years to expanded land restoration and land acquisition. This budget fails to meet that vision.

The Budget maintains too low a level of support for the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Brookfield Zoo. This funding level does not allow them to adequately serve the public. Millions of people visit and learn about conservation and the environment from these two jewels that anchor our outreach and educational programming. Neither the Garden nor the Zoo can continue their level of excellence without increased funding. This budget will force us to take radical actions through increased fees to preserve the Garden and the Zoo. This action will limit our outreach to the poorer members of our community.

While a referendum was the best way for the Cook County Forest Preserve District to obtain the funds, we now need a miracle to allow future generations to enjoy the beauty of our land.

Finally, this budget shows that the attention of the Commissioners is much more focused on the County government and not on the Forest Preserve government. This is the time to consider separating the two governments and giving the Forest Preserves a separate governing board.

My No vote is my plea to find a miracle.

 

FY19 Forest Preserve Budget, click here

A "Yes" Vote for Cook County Forest Preserve 2019 Budget and a Renewed Call for a Referendum to Save Our Forest Preserves

On November 15, 2018, I voted for a maintenance 2019 Cook County Forest Preserve District Budget to protect the work that has been done to protect our land. This budget is a caretakerís budget that does not address the actual need to protect our land resources.

Our Forest Preserves land survives because of the thousands of hours that our volunteers give to protect our vast and diverse holdings. We all owe these dedicated volunteer workers a thank you for their service.

For the last three years I have stated that the budgets were the best we can do; but we must figure out how to improve. The simple need is to restore the land and for more financial resources to acquire land that is still available.

This Budget is the fourth to have input from the Conservation Council whose role is to help us create a clear vision for the future. The Council has called for the last four years to expand land restoration and land acquisition.

The Budget maintains our support of the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Brookfield Zoo. This funding level is too low to assist either in performing their missions. These two jewels anchor our outreach and educational programming. Neither the Garden nor the Zoo can continue their level of excellence without future increased funding.

I renew my call to trust our voters and ask them to approve a referendum to increase real estate tax funding to do three things: 1. Approve funds to expand restoration services on our land; 2. Acquire additional land while some still exists; and 3. Increase our subsidies to the Brookfield Zoo and the Chicago Botanic Garden.

A referendum is the only way Cook County Forest Preserve District can obtain the funds it needs to fulfill its mission. The earliest a referendum could be held is 2020. We need to trust that our voters will give us wise guidance, so that future generations can enjoy the beauty of our land.

2018 Statement on the Forest Preserve Budget

2017 Statement on the Forest Preserve Budget

2016 Statement on the Forest Preserve Budget

2015 Statement on the Forest Preserve Budget

 


 

Click here to read previous budgets

 

 

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