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Rockford Park District tries to meet public’s needs, with a multi million dollar deficit looming

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ROCKFORD (WTVO) – Rockford residents had the chance to speak out via survey about where they want to see their tax dollars put to use in the Rockford Park District.

Since the start of 2019, park district officials have been using the survey info to make important decisions. Now 6 months into the year they’re checking how far they’ve come and what else needs to be improved on to meet residents’ needs.

“This master plan is now our guiding document.”, said Rockford Park District Board of Commissioners President, Ian Linnabary.

It’s been 6 months since the Rockford Park District heard from residents what they want and need from the organization. Now park district officials are holding themselves accountable, and gauging how much progress they’ve made to meet the public’s needs.

“It’s because of that information that we can feel comfortable knowing the decisions we make are the decisions the citizens want us to make because we asked them.” Linnabary said.
Linnabary continued, “we try to be cognizant always of what the tax payers want from us what they want from the park district.”

Residents called for better neighborhood parks and free summer programs but with funding coming mainly from property taxes the park district hasn’t been able to stay on par with the demand in previous years. They are even projecting to operate with million dollar deficit each year for the next five years, but lawmakers in Springfield passing the new capital plan could help relieve some of the burden.

“To improve on it’s maintenance needs and help them with their capital projects so provide some relief financially so at the end of the day they don’t have to spend as much property tax dollars if we’re able to provide more support from the state level.”, 34th District Senator Steve Stadelman said. “Maintaining a park playground is a very expensive endeavor. Replacing it is a 6 figure endeavor. So these things are very expensive to maintain but we know they are a priority and we are very focused on them.” Linnabary added.

At the end of the day, all present agreed investing in a park system plays an important role in strengthening the community.

“If businesses don’t want to move here or if they don’t want their employees living here, or people don’t like living here it’s going to be really hard to attract businesses and keep businesses.” Senator Stadelman said.
He continued, “being a great community to live in, I think the park district will be a big part of that.”

Park district officials said these kinds of progress check points are going to become a regular thing.

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