More accustomed to cost cutting and belt tightening, the Chicago Park District has found itself in the unusual position of needing to revise its 2022 budget appropriations upwards after receiving an unexpected windfall from the State of Illinois.
Each year, the Illinois Department of Revenue distributes money — known as Personal Property Replacement Taxes — to local governments. The Chicago Park District had anticipated its share of the replacement taxes would be roughly $50 million. Instead, it’s received $102 million to date and is anticipating a total surplus of $61.4 million, according to Steve Lux, Park District chief financial officer.
On Wednesday, the Park District board of commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance allowing the allocation of the added money.
One-third of the funds will go toward repair and replacement of Park District facilities, ranging from field house maintenance to Wi-Fi installation to sprucing up playgrounds.
Another $20 million will be used to pay down debt on the district’s new headquarters campus and park in Brighton Park. Reducing the district’s line of credit on the project will save millions of dollars in the long run, Lux said.
A further $15 million has been designated for the district’s pension fund. With this infusion of cash, the fund’s managers will be able to pay out benefits without needing to sell off assets.
Finally, $6.4 million will be appropriated to the aquarium and museum operating fund.
All told, the surplus represents a 12% increase in the district’s 2022 budget.
“We’re grateful to leverage these funds,” said Park District General Superintendent Rosa Escareño, who call the surplus a “one-time” and “unique” opportunity.