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Chicago Park District Ready to Raise Fees, Cut Jobs

By Prescott Carlson in News on Nov 18, 2009 10:40PM

2009_11_18_CPD.gif Like the city of Chicago and the CTA, the Chicago Park District is facing budget deficits as well in 2010, to the tune of $23 million. The park district is looking at a number of ways to balance their $391.8 million budget, including laying off some full-time employees and increasing a number of fees.

To cut costs, the park district is considering the elimination of 53 jobs -- which currently include 42 vacancies -- if requests to union leaders to take furlough days as an alternative is denied. They are also planning on reducing the subsidy it provides to Chicago museums and the Shedd Aquarium by 10%, a move that would save $3 million. The park district will also deny funding for park projects where "community partners" have not met their financial obligations.

On the raising revenue side, the park district expects to raise a number of different fees. On the list of increases are summer day camp costs, park facility rental fees, memberships at fitness centers, and boat slip fees. A vote is also on the table today to raise the price at the Museum of Science and Industry for the second time in two years. General admission would go up by $1 for Chicago residents to $13, non-residents will cough up $15, an increase of $2. Chicago Park District Gen. Supt. Timothy Mitchell said that this was the "most difficult budget [he's] had to do in [his six year] tenure."

Mitchell was quick to point out that the alternative to these measures would be increasing the park district's property tax rate, something it has not done in five years. Of course, the other alternative would be to eliminate certain unnecessary TIFs that are skimming much needed money out of the Chicago Park District coffers.