November 18, 2014
The Civic Federation supports the Forest Preserve District of Cook County’s FY2015 proposed $187.4 million budget for holding the property tax levy relatively flat and minimizing the use of one-time resources. This balanced budget is very reasonable in the near-term, especially when paired with the extra information provided by the master plans recently adopted by the District. The Civic Federation commends the Forest Preserve District’s increased dedication to public involvement in its budgeting and planning processes.
However, these plans and the District’s future financial stability continue to be threatened by the declining health of its pension fund. The market value funded ratio of the District’s pension fund has fallen from 75.4% in FY2004 to 65.1% in FY2013 due in large part to statutorily required employer contributions that have been insufficient to pay down accrued unfunded liabilities. The Civic Federation urges the Forest Preserve Board of Commissioners and the Illinois General Assembly to work with the administration of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle to pass the pension reform legislation that was introduced for Cook County and the Forest Preserve pension funds earlier this year.
The full analysis also emphasizes the continued inadequacy of the Forest Preserve District’s governing structure and reiterates the Civic Federation’s support for the creation of a separate Board of Commissioners for the District. The Civic Federation first addressed this issue in a 2008 report and continues to urge the creation of a separately-elected, unpaid Forest Preserve Board.
The Forest Preserve District of Cook County’s Fiscal Year 2015 begins on January 1, 2015 and ends on December 31, 2015.