Elmhurst Park District facing furloughs, lost revenue from pandemic

It wasn't supposed to be like this.

When Elmhurst park officials began planning for the district's 100th anniversary next month, it was supposed to be a time of celebration.

And then came COVID-19.

Now, instead of a party, the district faces major revenue losses, furloughs at the end of the month that will affect the majority of employees with pay cuts for those who remain, delays in capital projects, and shuttered facilities - including outdoor pools for the entire summer - with no immediate hope of reopening.

It's not what anybody planned and it's not what anybody wanted, but it's what the district confronts in the midst of a pandemic.

Executive Director Jim Rogers recognizes the challenges and the associated hardship, but still sounds hopeful.

The park district, he said, began taking shape during the flu pandemic of 1918 and since its founding has faced wars, floods and economic downturns - and still survived and flourished.

"And we will persevere through this," he said Thursday.

But not without some pain. The district expects to lose roughly $6.8 million in revenue, he said, including $6.3 million from nontax sources such as fees, membership dues and facility rentals because of cancellations that already have taken place or will take place through the summer and into fall. Roughly 55% of the district's total $19.1 in operating revenue comes from nontax sources that are being directly affected by pandemic-related shutdowns.

The inability to offer programs and open facilities means many employees are left with little or no work, which is leading to plans to furlough 31 of 75 full-time staff members indefinitely and without pay starting at the end of the month. More than 500 part-time employees - or nearly 96%- also will be furloughed indefinitely.

Of those who remain, most will take 3% pay cuts, with department heads taking 4% cuts and Rogers taking a 5% cut.

In addition, the district has postponed $1 million in capital projects, including plans to build a playground at Eldridge Park East, Rogers said. Earlier in the spring it scrapped plans for a November referendum question to raise money for a series of other projects when it became clear the timing wasn't right.

Rogers said the district will continue to evaluate its situation on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis.

But for now, the district's 100th anniversary year is not what anybody planned: It wasn't supposed to be like this.

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