An end to most programming and reduced staff due to the COVID-19 pandemic has meant a budgetary savings at the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District.
Superintendent of Finance and Administration Sharon Dangles told park board commissioners the general fund has an $870,000 balance as a result of the quick action by the board and staff.
At the Oct. 6 meeting Dangles shared the information, offering insights into how the pandemic has impacted the first four months of the budget year between May 1 and Aug. 30. Dangles said the district has $2.6 million in revenue and $1.7 million in expenses.
“Revenues are lower than last year,” Dangles said, adding “expenses are a lot lower than last year, so that’s really good. And the net positive fund balance is $0.7 million better than it was last year, so this is really good news when we’re looking at our numbers here. Our total revenues decreased 22 percent but expenses decreased 47 percent.”
“I’m pinching myself that we’re looking as good as we do,” said Commissioner Brent Bachus. “I know we’re not out of the woods, but to be in this position of strength I’d consider as Herculean, so thank you.”
When Gov. J.P. Pritzker ordered a statewide shutdown in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, activities at the park district went dormant. The Ice Arena and Racquet and Fitness Center shut down, spring programs ended abruptly and some staff was furloughed. The board decided not to open Lions Club Pool and canceled the traditional summer camps.
Rental agreements at park facilities, such as Wiley’s Grill and The Clubhouse, were canceled.
All these changes drained the park district of traditional revenue sources, but in some cases the changes saved money. Building expenses were cut in half, Dangles said. Staff was furloughed and nine were laid off. The changes resulted in a $1.1 million or 45 percent reduction in salaries compared to the previous year.
The park district reduced its full-time staff from 54 to 42 and some staffers have been given new job duties. With limited programming, the part-time staff has had their hours reduced, said Debbie Kopas, the parks’ executive director.
Commissioner Debbie Dennison said much of the credit for the positive budget numbers should go to the staff.
“Everybody seems to be really invested into it, and that’s what the bottom line is showing. Thank you for all your work. We know some of the cuts aren’t easy and some of the jobs aren’t easy, but you’re all wonderful, and a committed part of our community.”
The park district has resumed limited activities at the Ice Arena and Racquet and Fitness Center. It is doing virtual programming when possible and is redesigning other programs to meet the COVID-19 safety protocols.
The one bright spot has been Coyote Run Golf Course. Dangles said the golf fund shows a balance of $658,000 surpassing the 2019 number by $363,000. Golf was one of the first park activities allowed to resume under COVID-19 restrictions and has been very popular, but Dangles said the positive numbers also reflect a reduction in salaries and capital purchases and goods sold.
“I would say that while I’m very pleased to see where we’re sitting now, I caution the board to look at the longer term. What is in the cards for us as we look at property values and tax receipts,” Commissioner Steve Johnson said.
“Thank you for all the hard work, but it’s also for us as we continue to evolve through this to remember what our mission is: to provide recreational services and facilities and bring this community together,” he added.
“While we’ve maintained a really great job doing that so far, what else can we be doing?” Johnson wondered. “We’ll want to make sure we’re offering the community the ability to get out and really enjoy the great things that we have.”