Forest Preserves of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle unveiled her 2014 Executive Budget Recommendation to the Board of Commissioners. The proposed budget is $179 million and is balanced without increases to property taxes, fines or fees.
“This 2014 budget allows us to protect the diversity of plants and animals that depend on the Preserves and introduce new educational and recreational opportunities for residents of this County,” Preckwinkle said.
The restoration and preservation of Cook County’s precious natural lands remains the Forest Preserves’ top priority. In 2014, the Preserves will increase its landscape restoration budget by $1 million. This $6 million line item is the largest expenditure in the corporate budget.
“The magnitude of this investment underscores its importance,” Preckwinkle said. “While our staff has become a national leader in the field of ecological restoration, the scale of the work that needs to be done is so great that I anticipate continued investment in future budgets.”
The budget also creates a new department – the Department of Conservation and Experiential Programming. This department will oversee education, outreach, recreation and special events programming. Previously, employees who did this work were housed in separate departments, including the General Office, the Department of Resource Management and the Department of Recreation, Volunteer Resources and Permits.
“While our staff has already done great things in this arena, the creation of this new department will lead to more cohesive programming which will advance our mission and increase the number of visitors to the Preserves,” Preckwinkle said.
The 2014 Budget Recommendation also reflects a continued effort to collaborate with Cook County departments to save money and improve services. For example, the Forest Preserves is partnering with the Cook County Department of Homeland Security Emergency Management to facilitate county-wide response to large scale disasters, such as this past April’s flooding.
Finally, the Preserves will continue its multi-year Centennial campaign in 2014.
“With the centennial campaign, we have set lofty goals and renewed our vow to preserve biodiversity and our natural wonders in this fully developed urban area,” Preckwinkle said. “We also hope to ignite passion for this asset among Cook County residents and to develop new partnerships that help us advance the valuable mission of the Preserves.”
The total FY 2014 budget is $179 million and is allocated as follows:
- $57M Corporate Fund
- $3M Self-Insurance Fund
- $3M for Construction and Development
- $4M for Capital Improvements (carryover)
- $12.6M for Bond and Interest fund
- $3.2M for Annuity and Benefit fund
- $15.2M for Brookfield Zoo (the Zoo raises an additional $49M for itself)
- $9.4M for Botanic Garden, (the Garden raises an additional $22.2M for itself)