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Parks administrators lay out plans in next budget

The wish list for the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District includes new play equipment for Heritage Park in Homewood; improvements to the Irwin Center in Homewood; installing a ramp for accessibility at Park Place in Flossmoor; tennis court improvements at Flossmoor Hills and Pheasant Trails in Flossmoor; and purchasing a truck for the maintenance crew.

For the past six months, staff at the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District have been setting priorities for the 2023-24 budget. Park commissioners got a look at the proposals at a budget meeting Tuesday, March 7.

Karen Garrity, superintendent of finance and administration, said projected total revenue is $13.6 million, with expenditures of $13.4 million. Garrity told commissioners the budget numbers are looking better, but “we’re still struggling with revenues. We’re slowly coming back to normal, but we are not back to pre-pandemic activity” before park programs shut down in March 2020.  

About 40% of the park district’s budget comes from tax revenue. Before the pandemic, tax revenues funded 36% of the budget.

Garrity said the Equalized Assessed Valuation of properties in the park district showed an 8% drop. She still expects revenues to increase $642,000, despite decreases from real estate taxes. Garrity said the biggest increase will be in user fees that are projected to jump $738,000 or 24%, primarily due to the H-F Ice Arena reopening this month and the continued popularity of golf at Coyote Run Golf Course in Flossmoor.

Each department head went through the line items in their section of the budget. The personnel line item in each category shows an increase because of additional staffing and the rise in Illinois’ minimum wage to $13 an hour. It will meet the $15 threshold in 2025.

Golf course manager Tom Denklau said his estimates are for 37,000 rounds of golf this year at $32 a round. He reported Coyote Run showed a 27 percent increase over pre-pandemic rounds, which is 8% above national averages.

Irons Oaks is showing an increase in school activities this year and space rentals. Cheryl Vargo, Irons Oaks manager, said she is planning two new summer camps – one for toddlers and another for teens. 

Mike Gianatasio, superintendent of recreation, said the recreation department experiment last year for a separate summer camp for teens was successful and will continue this year. Camps will also move beyond Irwin Park to includes space at the H-F Racquet & Fitness Club and the H-F Sports Complex which should help eliminate waiting lists. He also is planning the return of pool parties and pool rentals when Lions Club Pool opens this season.

Membership is up 43% over last year at the H-F Racquet and Fitness Club, said club manager Michelle Artis. The facility has accepted Silver Sneakers (seniors insurance) participants and has now expanded to include members from Prime (general insurance). She reported a drop of about $35,000 in electric costs that she credited with turning lights off on tennis courts and other locations when not in use.

Doug Boehm, superintendent of parks and planning, said the parks’ mechanics are great, but several pieces of equipment are at their end. He proposes to purchase a Ford truck. It was in last year’s budget at $37,000 but he held the line on expenses and didn’t purchase the vehicle. This year, the cost is $44,500 and there is a 12-14 month wait.

He also proposed purchasing a ballfield grooming machine for $36,000.

The roof on the parks’ maintenance garage needs to be replaced. He also included a tent for Lions Club Pool in the budget.

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