Issues: Fees and User Charges
The Civic Federation strongly supports the use of charges and user fees by governments because those who voluntarily use the service pay the fee or charge. In contrast, critical, core government services, which benefit everyone in the jurisdiction either directly or indirectly, are appropriately financed through taxes.
The Civic Federation supports the Forest Preserve District of Cook County’s FY2013 proposed $190.3 million budget for its discipline in identifying non-tax revenue sources to hold the property tax levy flat for the fourth year in a row while maintaining substantial reserves.
While the District’s overall budget demonstrates continued fiscal discipline, the Civic Federation is concerned about several negative trends threatening the District’s long-term fiscal health. The funded ratio of the District’s pension fund fell to 61.6% in FY2011, now below a financially sustainable level. The pension challenges facing other Illinois governments demonstrate how quickly a negative trend can turn into a crisis.
The Civic Federation offers conditional support for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s (MWRD) FY2012 Tentative Budget of $1.0 billion. The Federation is concerned that the budget proposes the maximum increase to the property tax levy and does not comply with the District’s own fund balance policy. The proposed reforms to pension funding that have the support of the Retirement Fund Board and the Board of Commissioners are a strong step toward improving the financial health of the pension fund, which is only 56.5% funded. However, the passage of these reforms in Springfield will require strong advocacy by the Commissioners.
The Civic Federation supports the Chicago Park District FY2012 Budget of $407.5 million because it holds the property tax levy flat for the seventh year in a row and emphasizes cost containment and revenue diversification. The Federation supports the District’s development of a fund balance policy and its efforts to eliminate the structural deficit through a multi-year plan. While we support the budget, the Civic Federation has concerns about the declining health of the District’s pension fund.
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