November 17, 2015
The Civic Federation supports the Forest Preserve District of Cook County’s proposed $190.3 million budget. The proposed plan is reasonable and balanced, does not use fund balance reserves for operations and holds the property tax levy relatively flat at a time when many other local governments have sought large revenue increases.
However, the District’s underfunded pensions remain a concern and the pension fund will soon require an infusion of revenue, even if the proposed reform package contained in Illinois Senate Bill 843 is passed and survives court challenges. The pension plan’s actuarial funded ratio has decreased to 60.2% in FY2014 from 86.9% in FY2005 and could become totally insolvent within the next 20 years under the current State-mandated funding plan. The budget document states the intention to deliver a long-term plan as to how it will afford its pension obligations under the proposed reform package contained in Illinois Senate Bill 843, but the District should also produce a contingency plan for what it will do in the absence of pension reform.
The full analysis also continues the call for an independent and separate Board of Commissioners for the Forest Preserve 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 2016 begins on January 1, 2016 and ends on December 31, 2016.