DuPage forest preserve revenue declining due to COVID-19

 
 
Updated 5/5/2020 4:09 PM

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County has cut back on seasonal hiring and could dip into reserves because of lost revenue from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before the crisis, the district was anticipating $70.9 million in revenue for its fiscal 2020 budget, which took effect Jan. 1. Now it expects to lose roughly $700,000 in revenue from permits and fees, in part because it had to cancel education programs. The district's three golf courses also are expected to make less money.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Obviously, when this budget was formulated ... and when it was approved, we had no way to anticipate this current situation," Ed Stevenson, the district's executive director, told forest preserve commissioners on Tuesday.

Jack Hogan, director of finance and administration, presented details about the financial outlook during the meeting, which was held virtually.

The district was expected to collect roughly $4.4 million in revenue from its golf courses -- The Preserve at Oak Meadows in Addison, Maple Meadows Golf Course in Wood Dale and Green Meadows Golf Course in Westmont.

But The Preserve and Maple Meadows opened last Friday with state-imposed restrictions. Green Meadows is scheduled to open with the same limitations on Sunday.

Because of the restrictions, no more than two players can start a round every 15 minutes, which means significantly fewer golfers than normal. Cart rentals aren't allowed and only a limited number of prepackaged food items can be sold as takeout.

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Hogan said a shortfall in golf revenue is expected because the courses are operating "at a very limited capacity." But he said, the golf season is just beginning.

"If the restrictions ease and we can move toward a more normal operating environment in the next month or so, then things will look a lot different ... in the golf business," Hogan said.

When it comes to the district's largest source of revenue -- property taxes -- officials said there may be delays in getting the money. The district is expecting to receive $51.8 million in property taxes.

Reserve money could be used to replace lost or delayed revenue. District officials also are exploring ways to save money. The district already has scaled back the number of seasonal workers it hires. Normally, it spends up to $1 million a year on seasonal hiring.

"If we continue to pull back on hiring in that area," Hogan said, "we'll save substantial money that could help us offset some of the revenue loss."

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