The River Forest Park District’s proposed budget for the upcoming 2019-20 fiscal year can be summed up with three words – staying the course.

With a few exceptions, it keeps the spending at the same levels. The few capital projects it has on the docket are fairly modest and are designed to address pressing maintenance issues. But that isn’t to say it there aren’t any changes.

The budget calls for raising programming fees by 3 percent to make up for the minimum wage increases. Keystone Park’s distinct train-themed playground equipment will be replaced with something similar, but newer. And the park district will create a new graphic designer position. 

Park district Executive Director Mike Sletten presented the budget to the River Forest Park District Board of Commissioners during its May 13 meeting. He noted that power costs have actually dropped. 

Thanks to the LED light bulbs at all park district facilities, for outdoor lighting and at the platform tennis court, the park district is spending less on electricity. And because the natural gas rates were locked in when the prices were low, they save money in that area as well – at least until 2021. 

At the same time, Sletten said that there are expenses they couldn’t control – areas where they budget for the worst-case scenario. The cost for tree removal has been going up, and because rains are unpredictable, so have water costs. 

For the most part, capital projects focus on repair and replacement of existing assets. At the Keystone Park playground, that includes $50,000 to replace the train playground equipment, which, according to Sletten, is falling apart, and $12,000 to replace the fence. Sletten said that, for the former, they would try to find something “as close as possible” to what’s there right now.

Elsewhere in Keystone Park, the budget sets aside $12,000 for brick sidewalk upgrades and $5,000 for the “ecological restoration” of the nearby railroad embankment. 

At Washington Square Park and Washington Commons Park, the budget allocates $28,000 to put in six square metal bollards along Forest Avenue and $10,000 to regrade the Washington Square field in order to reduce flooding. At Priory Park the budget allocates $20,000 to resurface the parking lot and $5,000 for ecological restoration. 

The budget is currently available for review. The park board will hold public budget hearing on June 17 prior to voting on the document.

Join the discussion on social media!

Igor Studenkov

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Growing Community Media newspapers in 2012, then from 2015...