November 7, 2013
The Civic Federation supports the Forest Preserve District of Cook County’s FY2014 proposed $178.8 million budget that holds the property tax levy flat and maintains substantial reserve funds. However, the Federation warns that these achievements are threatened by the declining health of the District’s pension fund.
The District’s reasonable budget plan is only possible because State law requires the District to contribute an inadequate amount to its pensions. The market value funded ratio of the District’s pension fund has fallen from 80.9% in FY2003 to 59.2% in FY2012. Without reform, the pension fund is projected to be insolvent by 2031. The Civic Federation urges the Forest Preserve District to develop its own pension reform framework based on the characteristics of its fund, including funding levels, member population and statutory provisions.
The full analysis also emphasizes the continued inadequacy of the Forest Preserve District’s governing structure, which was cited as a concern by Moody’s Investors Service when it downgraded the District’s general obligation debt to A1 from Aa2 in August 2013. 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 2014 begins on January 1, 2014 and ends on December 31, 2014.