2020 Budget Approved
October 11, 2019 04:00 PM
Ethel's Woods-Mill Creek Restoration
In order to continue moving toward the 100-Year Vision and Strategic Plan to preserve and sustain Lake County's natural landscape, and extend community outreach and education, the Lake County Forest Preserve Board of Commissioners approved the fiscal year 2020 budget of $62,449,340 at their October 8 meeting.
The Lake County Forest Preserves shifted to a calendar fiscal year (January 1 to December 31) allowing for better tax revenue forecasting, and budget planning for program activities and construction projects. "As one of the nation’s top conservation agencies and the second-largest Forest Preserve District in Illinois, careful stewardship of every dollar is a key factor," said Angelo Kyle, President of the Lake County Forest Preserves. "It is important we maintain a balanced budget and strong financial management," Kyle said. "We have sound reserves, long-term replacement funds, moderate debt, and a AAA bond rating, an achievement shared by very few forest preserves and park districts in the nation."
While approving the budget, the Board had to consider several factors that were outside of their control, including a major change to the state's minimum wage laws. The change will increase the minimum wage gradually between 2020 and 2025 to $15 per hour. Due to the variety of activities and programs provided, the Lake County Forest Preserves employs nearly 300 seasonal temporary employees. "The impact of this wage increase over the next five years will be significant," Kyle said.
Of property taxes collected in Lake County, only 2.17% of the average tax bill goes to support the Lake County Forest Preserves. The 2019 proposed tax levy, which will be billed in 2020, is estimated to be 1.2% higher than the 2018 tax levy. This is $11.4 million below the Forest Preserve total tax levy from 2009. In that year, the Forest Preserve portion of the tax bill on a home valued at $250,000 was $153.89. With the approved 2020 budget, the Forest Preserve portion of the tax bill on that same home (assuming it changed with the average change in property values) is estimated to be $122.99, which is $30.90 lower than the 2009 tax bill. Comparing the 2019 tax bill to the 2018 bill for this same home would show an increase of $1.64.
The budget includes an updated Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) outlining trail projects, public access improvements, preserve maintenance, and habitat restoration initiatives to be completed in preserves throughout Lake County. The CIP budget includes preserve and trail improvements for Lakewood Forest Preserve in Wauconda. The Lakewood project includes the construction of a new maintenance building. There is a strong desire for it to be developed as a net-zero building, with respect to its energy needs. It is expected that grants will help fund the project.
Work will continue on the Millennium Trail pedestrian tunnel under Route 45 in Antioch. The pedestrian and bicycle trail will safely link Ethel’s Woods and Raven Glen forest preserves. Other improvements include road and parking lot repairs at several preserves, including Sedge Meadow Forest Preserve canoe launch in Wadsworth, and Sun Lake Forest Preserve in Lake Villa.
Reservoir expansion and preserve improvements are expected to be completed in spring 2020 at Buffalo Creek Forest Preserve in Long Grove. In an effort to reduce flooding and provide additional public access improvements, preserve visitors will find 1.2 miles of additional trails, seven new boardwalks, and a larger parking area.
Accessibility improvements for people with disabilities are also planned at forest preserves throughout the County. "It's important that we ensure every Lake County resident can safely access the preserves regardless of ability," Kyle said. "One focus of our 100-Year Vision for Lake County is to provide convenient access for all people to safely enjoy outdoor recreation and nature exploration," he said.
Contact: Stephen Neaman, Director of Finance, 847-968-3109, sneaman@LCFPD.org.