Rockford Park District Budget Q&A
Question: Why close Sand Park Pool versus Alpine Pool or Harkins Aquatics Center for 2018?
Answer: Closing Sand Park Pool for the 2018 season will save the District nearly $88,000. A variety of repairs to the concrete, fencing, and play features was needed at Penguin Pond, along with repairs to the baby pool adding up to roughly $40,000. On top of the construction costs, the District spends roughly $48,000 to operate Sand Park Pool every summer, and attendance for Learn to Swim lessons and general admission have also declined. In 2018, remediation of the former Sand Park landfill will continue with the focus being along the entire eastern portion of the Sand Park pool property, making it harder to navigate and not a very family-friendly environment. Remediation of the former Sand Park landfill will take place over the next two years, and include a new parking lot along with removing the driving range and sledding hill, which will be converted to a nature preserve, as specified in an agreement reached in 2015 between the Rockford Park District (RPD), State of Illinois, City of Loves Park, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), and Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI), Inc. The City of Loves Park has been working with the District regarding this decision, and will continue to work with the Park District to explore recreational needs of the community. Keeping Alpine Pool and Harkins Aquatic Center open is the best geographical balance to provide swimming and lesson opportunities. Closing these amenities for 2018 has helped reduce the District’s deficit, but we want to talk to the community first before making decisions that go beyond 2018.
Question: Why dock the Forest City Queen and not run Trolley Car 36 for 2018?
Answer: The Forest City Queen is in need of roughly $40,000 in structural repairs and the District spends $21,580 in tax subsidy to operate the boat and $29,750 in tax subsidy to operate Trolley Car 36, so in all we were able to save roughly $91,330. The Forest City Queen began operating in 1979, and every year, the boat must pass an inspection by the U.S. Coast Guard. These two recreational opportunities also had a limited capacity, and over the years, attendance has declined. Closing these amenities for 2018 has helped reduce the District’s deficit, but we want to talk to the community first before making decisions that go beyond 2018.
Question: What are the fundraising priorities for 2018?
Answer: Fundraising priorities for the Rockford Park District Foundation in 2018 are playgrounds, trees, and Help Me Play. The District has 62 playgrounds that are beyond the 15-year life cycle; to help our tree canopy, 2,000 ash trees need to be removed, and each tree costs $350. The District also wants to make sure to help engage youth by raising money for Help Me Play, the District’s financial assistance program.
Question: Are all construction projects on hold?
Answer: Some projects will continue to progress if they are well supported by the community, areas of interest that meet the growing demands of the community, and are good business decisions that are primarily funded via donors, sponsors, or non-tax revenue support. For example, the Rockford Bank & Trust Pavilion is all possible thanks to generous partners such as: Rockford Bank & Trust, Rick and Lana Engen, Norris & Margaret Aldeen Foundation, and Al and Joe Castrogiovanni, who together contributed $2.7 million to the project. Rockford Bank & Trust Pavilion will generate an estimated $150,000 of profit yearly, which will be reinvested into Aldeen Golf Club. Property tax revenue and golf fees will not sustain Aldeen Golf Club at the same service level in the future. The Rockford Park District anticipates that 20+ golf events as well as other non-golf events will utilize Rockford Bank & Trust Pavilion.
Question: Why is the Park District looking to add video gaming at select facilities?
Answer: The Rockford Park District’s mission is to help people enjoy life by providing an exceptional park and recreation system that contributes to the health, wellness, and entertainment of its citizens. With declining revenue both through fees and a declining tax base, along with population and demographic shifts, it is becoming extremely difficult to provide the same level of service without an increase in new revenue or a decrease in our footprint. Park districts across the country as well as other local municipalities have added gaming machines as a non-tax generated revenue stream. At this point, we are exploring a variety of locations for gaming machines such as: Mercyhealth Sportscore Complexes, all District golf courses, UW Health Sports Factory, and ice facilities.