The 2006 Cook County Forest Preserve budget was released on Nov. 8 with a minimal tax increase, an increase in staff, no resolution of the issues surrounding the future of Jensen Slides at Caldwell Woods, and the redefinition and reduction of a facility that has served the district for the last 70 years, the Hal Tyrell Trailside Museum in River Forest. As commissioner of the 9th District, I have been scrutinizing the proposed budget with the goal of reducing or eliminating the tax increase.
I have long supported the district's efforts to improve operations and better serve the people of our county, and positive public testimony at the public hearings illustrates that the district has made great strides in the last two years. I have long supported the cooperative effort and statutory financial assistance given to Brookfield Zoo and the Chicago Botanic Gardens. Under the current proposal, taxes on a $400,000 home would increase less than $4.50. Much of this is due to a bond program that will inject $25 million into each of the zoo and the gardens and $50 million will be spent in our area.
I am troubled, however, by the purported need for additional staffing without sufficient explanation. More troubling, is the addition of clerical staff when no additional staffing is available for Trailside Museum, and the continued absence of a plan for rehabilitating the Jensen Slides at Caldwell Woods.
I will continue my efforts to refine this budget in the interests of our district. The forest preserve budget is expected to be voted on in December. I can be reached at 312/603-4393 or 773/774-8554.
Peter N. Silvestri
Cook County Commissioner, 9th District