Park District looks to ‘bright’ future
By Hank Beckman For the Naperville-Sun February 9, 2013 8:10PM
Park District Executive Director Ray McGury, left, visits with Larry Gentile, center, and Mike Faniglietti Saturday at a State of the Parks presentation Saturday in Naperville. | Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 11, 2013 6:37AM
Naperville Park District officials had a message for the community early Saturday morning.
“The state of the Park District is good and the future is bright,” Park Board President Kirsten Young told a group of about 75 citizens at the Alfred Rubin Community Center.
Young ran through a list of accomplishments in the past year, including the District being honored for Distinguished Accreditation, introducing a new web site, beginning a non-tax revenue plan, and completing renovations to Meadow Glens, Centennial Beach and Wil-O-Way Park. The first full year of operations of the Nike Sports Complex ended with it being one of the District’s most popular facilities, Pioneer Park and the Dorothea Weigand Riverfront Park saw improvements, and the preliminary work on the Knoch Knolls Nature Center was completed.
Moreover, the Illinois General Assembly passed child safety legislation that allows Park Districts to check the record’s of minors working for park districts and was sponsored by Rep. Darlene Senger, R-96th.
The District’s budget is roughly $38 million, and like many governments in recent years, it has had to pay strict attention to finances.
Young pointed out that with tax revenue accounting for only 50 percent of Park District revenue, the rest of the budget has to be made up in user fees or other sources, making the non-tax revenue planning all the more important.
In 2012, the District secured nearly $330,000 in grant money from various sources, including the State of Illinois, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Tennis Association and the Walmart Foundation.
Other financial challenges for the District include the two golf courses being slightly down in revenues in recent years, which Young attributes to the soft economy. Still, she pointed out that a District goal is to resist hiking green fees, at least through the end of the 2013 season.
For all of the challenges facing the Park District, Young was proud of the product delivered to residents.
“Our residents care about value,” Young said, “And residents receive an excellent value for their tax dollars.”
As evidence, Young cited the 2012 levy being down slightly from the year before, resulting in the cost to a taxpayer with a $305,000 home being $300.
Not everything went smoothly in 2012.
The fall registration for the Youth Soccer League left the District overwhelmed by the heavy turnout for the program.
“The system simply couldn’t handle the capacity,” Young said.
Young said the District had made an effort to correct the problem, noting she was encouraged by the feedback received from the community.
The immediate future will provide challenges. Along with the uncertainty of how the national health care overhaul will affect the District, and the major project that is the Knoch Knolls Nature Center, the District still faces the remedial action to clean up the lead pollution at Sportsman’s Park.
The site remediation will take place over the next several years, and while no one in District leadership will say that the expense will top $1 million, it won’t come cheap.
“It will be significant dollars,” Susan Stanish, Director of Finance, said.
Stanish couldn’t estimate what the final cost would be, but did say that “it probably won’t” be in the $100,000 to $200,000 range.
Young said that the biggest priority for the coming year was to evaluate the changes prompted by the transition of the Barn Recreation Center site into a maintenance-only operation. The Barn currently houses several programs, including gymnastics early childhood education.
Some have already been relocated to other facilities and construction of the new facility at the historic center will begin sometime in mid-2014.
“The Barn will be demolished at some point,” Young said.