Balanced Budget for Forest District

Article excerpt

Byline: Mick Zawislak

Since the economy began to flounder a few years ago, budgeting at the Lake County Forest Preserve District has become more than an annual requirement.

"It has now turned into a year-round process," Executive Director Tom Hahn said Monday in recapping the proposed 2011-12 budget for a joint meeting of several forest district committees.

The constant evaluation has paid off, he said, in presenting a balanced operating budget of about $60.2 million, which is 5.5 percent below spending for the current year.

"We remain in good financial shape, especially compared to other local governments," according to Hahn.

The overall budget, which includes capital spending, is proposed at nearly $83 million, much less than the $146 million estimated for the current budget year, which ends June 30.

"The real drop is in land acquisition spending," Hahn said after the lengthy presentation.

Nearly 1,400 acres were acquired in the past year -- one of the most active in district history -- but any new purchases will be land-banked to limit operation and maintenance costs.

The district expects to spend $59 million less in the coming year to acquire land, as a good portion of the most recent installment of a taxpayer-approved bond issue has been spent. Another bond issue isn't anticipated until October 2012.

The district also will scale back or delay projects to restore land, build trails and open new preserves. District officials have been contending with a rare dip in property values of nearly 7 percent in 2010, with a similar or higher drop expected this year. …