Oak Park village hall

The Park District of Oak Park has requested $2 million of the $38.9 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) federal funds allocated to the village of Oak Park. The village board has not yet discussed the request.

Only state, local, territorial and tribal governments were eligible to directly receive ARPA funds from the U.S. Treasury. However, governments are allowed to distribute their share of ARPA funds to replace lost public sector revenue. That includes the Park District of Oak Park, which generated $6 million fewer dollars in 2020 than in 2019 due to closure of facilities and reduced programming necessitated by COVID-19, according to Jan Arnold, park district executive director.

“Many other park districts in the state are working with their villages to access the ARPA funds,” she said. “Special districts were not separately included in the legislation that resulted in the APRA funding thus we must work with the municipality on funds to cover impacts [and] loses.”

Arnold told Wednesday Journal the park district made several operational changes to address the reduced revenue but was still unable to transfer $2 million into its capital improvement plan (CIP). Should the village board approve the ask, the park district intends to transfer the requested $2 million in ARPA funds into its CIP.

The funds were requested to support the park district’s efforts “to continue to support program access and upkeep on all of our facilities that address the needs of our community’s youth, teen, adult and senior populations,” Arnold said.

The park district’s CIP has already had a recent influx of cash. The district’s elected commissioners voted unanimously Oct. 14 to pass an ordinance authorizing the park district to issue general obligation debt certificates in an amount not to exceed $6 million.

Arnold confirmed that the $6 million in debt certificates went into the park district’s CIP and reconfirmed that the requested $2 million in ARPA funds would also go into the CIP. Both confirmations were made via email. As she was out on vacation, Arnold was unable to be interviewed by Wednesday Journal.

The park district is the only special Oak Park taxing body to make such a request of the village, which Interim Village Manager Lisa Shelley confirmed. Neither the Oak Park Public Library nor the Oak Park Township lost any revenue as a result COVID-19, making both ineligible to receive a share of the village’s ARPA allowance. The village’s two school districts did not lose revenue. Representatives from those four taxing entities independently confirmed this to Wednesday Journal.

The township and park district are similar in that they both charge some participation fees for programming. The park district made a goal to have non-tax revenue, including programming fees, account for 50 percent of its overall revenue by 2020. Wednesday Journal awaits a response from the park district on the status of that goal. Only a small percentage of the township’s revenue comes from programming fees, according to Township Manager Gavin Morgan. Many township programs, for instance its transportation service, only have a suggested donation fee.

The Oak Park village board had its last meeting of this year on Dec. 6, where it approved its budget for fiscal year 2022. ARPA fund allocation was not discussed. Village President Vicki Scaman told Wednesday Journal she expects the village board will discuss the park district’s $2 million request sometime in mid-January. The village is required to have its entire $38.9 million share of ARPA funds committed for spending by Dec. 31, 2024 and spent in full by Dec. 31, 2026.

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