Naperville Park District’s 3-year financial plan includes $36 million for capital projects   

Naperville Park District sign welcoming to playground
Donate Today

The word “roadmap” was used multiple times as Naperville Park District officials recently combed through a 3-year financial plan that takes both sides of the financial ledger into account.

“Departments are not going line item-by-line item through everything, but they are focusing on major categories and areas where we know there’s going to be challenges on the expense side,” Sue Stanish, director of finance, said at a park board meeting Thursday, May 23, as a draft of the plan was unveiled.

As a sign of solidarity, the park board is slated to act on the high-level, 29-page document at its next meeting on June 9.

$36 million in capital expenses in financial plan  

The draft plan focuses on the park district’s fiscal years of 2024, 2025 and 2026. Capital projects, clocking in at $36 million in the next three years, were a portion of the broader budget that was hashed over at the recent park board meeting.

“These are projects to take care of what we already have,” Stanish said of the parameters around the capital spending fund.

According to district documents, a sampling of some of the specific big ticket projects on the docket in the years ahead includes the already-in-progress improvements at the Ron Ory Community Garden Plots ($890,000) this year, infrastructure upgrades at Commissioners Park ($1.1 million) in 2025 and parking lot improvements at Sportsman’s Park ($625,000) in 2026.

Speaking to the sources that fortify capital projects, Stanish said, “Property taxes are really important to funding our capital plan. The issuance of debt … is probably the second largest funding source that we have for capital.”

Some of the other key revenue sources that help keep the district’s various amenities in optimal condition include developer contributions and interest income, Stanish indicated.

“There’s also a very important philosophy that this board and prior boards has set up,” she added. “If we have surpluses in any of our operations, and we do better than expected, those funds are reinvested back into the community through capital investment here. That, over time, has allowed for some of our balances to get where they are right now and to provide for that flexibility for us.”

A look at 2025, 2026 projections

In her recent report to the board, Stanish and Executive Director Brad Wilson also provided a glimpse into some of the district’s anticipated figures for the upcoming 2025 and 2026 fiscal year budgets.

In 2025, the district is planning a net increase of $1.3 million to the levy, resulting in a $20 increase to the average property owner’s tax bill, bringing the district’s line item that year to $440. In 2026, the district is anticipating adding $1.1 million to the levy, which would result in an additional $17 increase, bringing the average property owner’s tax bill for the district to $457.

On the expense side, officials are anticipating a 4% compensation increase pool across all park departments for full-time employees, with additional compensation also in the works for part-timers. Officials also are anticipating 5% increases in insurance costs in both upcoming budgets, as well as increased pension contributions from 6.16% to 6.63% in 2025 and 6.63% to 7.29% in 2026.

Stanish offered up a caveat to the process of financial forecasting, even in the short term. “With commodities, fuel and all of those other things, we did some minor increases, but when we’re out to 2026, that’s really something we’ll have to evaluate when we get out to that budget year,” she said.

A possible referendum on the horizon? 

During deliberations with the park board, Wilson was asked to weigh, on a scale of 1-10, the likelihood of a spending referendum winding up on a future ballot and whether he and other administrators would recommend it.

“I’m not at a point to provide, on a scale, where that’s at,” Wilson said, in response. He later stated, “It’s too early in the process.”

Community engagement exercises, such as a survey, will help determine next steps, he indicated. In particular, the district this summer is asking residents to provide feedback on an indoor recreation space needs assessment that is in progress.

“We’re gathering feedback from residents on their interest and need on indoor space, specifically, and the willingness to pay a portion of that,” Wilson said. “For us, as an organization, as we look to indoor space, that would be something that we likely would need to go to the community and request that financial support to be able to do that.”

If you have a story idea, we want to hear from you!