Will County presents forest preserve budget

By Stephanie Wallace

Chief Finance Officer Matthew Pehle presented a preliminary 2021 Budget for the Will County Forest Preserve.

“The budget is balanced and our infrastructure maintenance, vehicle replacement, and computer replacement funds are fully funded,” Pehle said.

The total Forest Preserve budget will be about $66 million but there are multiple different categories in which the money will be distributed.

According to reconnectwithnature.org “the corporate budget is 13.3 million and the construction and development budget is $4.7 million.”

The money will go towards several projects including repaving 4.5 miles of the Old Plank Road Trail, electronic dog park gates at all six dog parks, and phase two of exhibit developments at Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon.

“There are always issues with the gates being locked or unlocked,” Pehle said, regarding the dog parks. “We want to make sure that the people paying for the dog park passes have access.”

Most of the budget will account for the “Personnel category,” which consists of more of the day to day operations.

Pehle said that most of what the park does is from those funds such as paying for the service crew and the policing staff.

Total revenue due to renovations is suspected to be about $18 million which would be an increase from 2019 according to a public record of the Forest Preserve District Finance Committee meeting.

“When you add up all the dog park fees, property fees, special use permits,” Cindy Cain, public information officer said. “We get revenue for leasing out farmers to grow hay.”

According to the official Will County Forest Preserve website, the District’s overall tax rate will decrease by 1.57 percent. This will cause owners of a $200,000 house for example to pay $1.53 less in taxes than they did the previous year.

“The rate depends on the property value,” Cain said. “So, if you have a $400,000 house, you’re going to double that.”

Because of Illinois’s current Tier 3 COVID-19 regulations, the Forest Preserve District visitor centers will be closed to the public and indoor programs have been canceled. Dog parks, preserves, trails, campgrounds, and latrines will remain open.