H-F Parks increases its share for special rec programs

The Homewood-Flossmoor Park District has agreed to increase funding for the South Suburban Special Recreation Association (SSSRA). 
Commissioners approved the change at the Aug. 20 board meeting. 

The H-F Park District will provide an additional $30,000 annually to SSSRA. It is the first increase since 1990. The estimated cost for services will be $181,000. The change, starting in the 2020-21 budget year, will not increase taxes. Funding will come from the H-F Park District’s special recreation fund, which is also used to meet the park district’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) needs.
SSSRA participants from Homewood and Flossmoor enjoy a range of activities. Services for special needs individuals are offered for the youngest child through adult age – everything from tumbling to overnight trips.
SSSRA is a service agency with 10 members representing park districts and villages. Of those, the H-F Park District has the second highest number of participants and requests for inclusion aides at park programs, said Stephanie Simpson, superintendent of recreation.
In 1969, Illinois law gave park districts and villages the right to levy a tax for special recreation associations to provide services for residents. H-F Park District was a founding member of SSSRA in 1973. 
Because SSSRA does not levy taxes, it relies on support from its members. Simpson said SSSRA was hit hard by a 22 percent drop in funding between 2013 and 2017 after taxing bodies saw a decrease in equalized assessed valuation. It has increased fees, sought grants and cut expenses, but it needs more revenue, she said.
Simpson gave the example of the $90,000 in salaries for inclusion aides, those who assist special needs individuals at SSSRA programs. That is double what SSSRA paid in 2014.
Park commissioners agreed to increase the district's tax rate for SSSRA from 0.025 to 0.030 at its July meeting, recognizing that many residents are benefitting from SSSRA programs.
The change will mean a dip in the park district’s special recreation fund but it still has a healthy balance, estimated at $275,000. 

Simpson said several projects will be paid for from that fund: a new ramp at the Irons Oaks building, new playground surfaces, ADA picnic benches and a sensory room at the Irwin Center. After these are completed, she said the special recreation fund will have a balance of approximately $158,000.

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