The Rockford Park District is known for its numerous indoor and outdoor facilities across the city.
The notables are Magic Waters and the Nicholas Conservatory.
“We love the parks, we love the facilities, we’ve used a lot of them,” said Rockford residents John and Janice Ferguson. Running those facilities however are expense.
“Demographics have changed, trends have changed, and the reality is is that those facilities are now often times subsidized by tax dollars, they no longer provide a revenue stream,” said the Rockford Park District Board Of Commissioners President Ian Linnabary.
The district is heading into 2018 with a one million dollar deficit. Board leaders Tuesday night opted against raising the tax rate on residents. “We don’t have an unlimited piggy bank from which we can draw to accomplish that goal of creating this awesome park district,” Linnabary said. “We’re forced very reasonably I think, to look at all the programs and services and facilities that we provide and evaluate which provide the greatest benefit to the greatest number,” he added.
Instead, Linnabary says they’ll cut back a number of services. One of those facilities is Sand Park Pool, which the district is closing until further notice. Other cuts include scaling back operations of the Forest City Queen river ride and Trolley Car 36. “None of the cuts that we are making are necessarily permanent,” Linnabary added.
Despite the looming deficit the district has expanded in recent years with the addition of the UW Health Sports Factory and the Nicholas Conservatory. But, Linnabary says those facilities weren’t paid solely with tax dollars.
“These are all facilities that are funded in large part by other revenue sources, private revenue sources, or revenue sharing with different units of government,” he said. “None of these facilities are operated exclusively with the tax dollars from the park district,” he added.
The district has considered video gaming as a possible future revenue source. They also plan to include several community outreach meetings to discover what facilities or changes can better serve the public.