Three-year financial plan filled with uncertainty for Naperville Park District

  • The Naperville Park District operates Centennial Beach at a former quarry at 500 W. Jackson Ave. in Naperville.

    The Naperville Park District operates Centennial Beach at a former quarry at 500 W. Jackson Ave. in Naperville. Courtesy of the Naperville Park District

 
 
Updated 5/27/2022 6:46 PM

Faced with increasing uncertainty about the future economic outlook, Naperville Park District officials shortened a five-year financial plan to three years.

But even three years might be too long to provide an accurate forecast.

 

Finance Director Sue Stanish stressed rising inflation and staffing issues as challenges in trying to project what finances may look like in 2023 and beyond. She said 7% inflation at the end of 2021 completely changed the outlook after the rate stood at 1.9% the year before.

"What's happened with inflation is extraordinary," she said. "We're trying to catch up to having fewer dollars that we generate to pay for more right now."

Based on the consumer price index and a cap on the tax levy, Stanish projected a $10 property tax increase next year for the average owner of a $412,000 home. She said a similar increase is likely to follow in 2024, although the CPI is tougher to predict this far out.

Park District Executive Director Brad Wilson emphasized the staffing issues that continue to hamper the ability to provide services, especially with maintenance crews. Wilson said affordable fees are a district priority as officials estimate a 1% or 2% fee increase in each of the next three years.

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"That is truly one of the greatest challenges for the district today, is the overall recruitment and filling positions," Wilson said. "And once they're here, retaining the staff that we have."

Stanish said 73% of the operating budget will be staffing-related, including after planned 3% raises this year and 4% raises next year that will be more performance-based. She said next year's budget proposal will request new hires for a digital marketing strategist and project manager for the planning department.

Insurance rates will remain flat for a fifth straight year, Stanish said. But a 30% increase for fuel costs will be built into the 2023 budget.

Based on participation levels so far this year, Stanish said programming for 2023 will finally reach full pre-pandemic levels.

"We do our best to try and estimate where we're going to be," she said. "But the reality is we need a flexible plan because I can guarantee once our plan is approved, there will be changes."

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