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Local

DeKalb Park Board Commissioners question 2020 Park District budget draft

DeKalb Park Board responds to preliminary 2020 budget draft

Heather Collins, superintendent of finance and administration for the DeKalb Park District, presents the board of commissioners with the 2020 fiscal year budget draft and an overview of park district financing at the board meeting on Thursday at the Ellwood Museum's Visitor's Center.
Heather Collins, superintendent of finance and administration for the DeKalb Park District, presents the board of commissioners with the 2020 fiscal year budget draft and an overview of park district financing at the board meeting on Thursday at the Ellwood Museum's Visitor's Center.

DeKALB – The first look at the DeKalb Park District’s fiscal 2020 budget was met with skepticism from some of the district’s board of commissioners Thursday.

During Thursday’s Park Board meeting in the Visitor’s Center of the Ellwood Museum, 509 N. First St., Heather Collins, district superintendent of finance and administration, presented a broad overview of how park district financing works. The board will vote on the fiscal 2020 budget draft after a public hearing in February.

Current numbers indicate the park district has a budget deficit of $153,000, according to board secretary and commissioner Keith Nyquist, who expressed concerns about the budget as it stands.

“Based on some of the budget items, I would have a very hard time voting for this budget in February,” Nyquist said of the budget draft, which will not be made available to the public or posted on the district’s website until Friday. “This board has had to make a number of really tough decisions in the last couple months, one of them regarding health insurance for our employees. Yet looking through the budget, the native grasslands initiative, by my quick math, we’re going to be allocating over the next few years $180,000 for that. That to me seems like a misplaced priority.”

“We are purposefully allocating, strategically, the insurance fund, the FICA [Federal Insurance Contributions Act] fund, the IMRF [Illinois Mutual Retirement Fund] and the museum funds, which were levied for fewer taxes this year,” Collins said. “As a result, we still have [additional funds from property taxes], so we’ve chosen to pour that into general and recreation funds this year.”

Commissioner and board President Phil Young said he concurred with Nyquist’s concerns, but said he wants to keep looking forward.

“I don’t like everything here,” Young said. “But I think overall it’s more of my personal view, and I’m not going to interject that.”

Commissioner and treasurer Dag Grada did not provide comment, and commissioners Patricia Perkins and Dean Holliday were not in attendance.

Collins also said the district is asking the board to approve appropriating the budget 10 percent higher than what has been done before. Appropriation for park districts sets a legal limit at what amount of spending the district is allowed to do each year, Collins said. Approving a higher appropriation limit would allow the district to have a contingency in place for unanticipated expenses.

The commissioners indicated their preliminary consensus for the appropriation plan, provided more documentation is given at the next board meeting set for Jan. 17.

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