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Letter to the Editor: Forest Preserve, county funding separate
Tuesday, July 21, 2009 Chicago Sun-Times
article in Monday's Chicago Sun-Times -- "Have You Heard About The Forest
Preserves?" -- was a welcome opportunity to inform the public about both
our "68,000 Acres of Adventure" campaign and about how their tax
dollars are being used.
several points in the piece were misleading and misinform the larger public
discussion regarding the Forest Preserve District of Cook County.
article states that "consumers in Chicago now pay a nation-high 10.25
percent sales tax thanks in part to a penny-on-the-dollar increase that
the same Cook County commissioners who also run the Forest Preserve District
approved last year."
was missing, however, was any indication that the Forest Preserve District does
not receive ANY of the funds received from that increase -- not one penny. This
is because the Cook County government budget and that of the forest preserves
are completely separate. They have separate budget books and they have separate
I find particularly troubling is that, in the third-to-last sentence in the
article, it is acknowledged that "technically, the Forest Preserve
District is a separate entity from county government -- although its president
and commissioners are the same."
it did not make mention of separate budgets, it seemed to at least acknowledge
some level of separation between the two governments. That is, until the last
the last sentence again makes an effort to tie the two together, noting that
the three-year total spent on campaigns is "a relatively small amount in
government, though still enough to pay the total annual salaries of, say, 25
new nurses for the county's health system or 17 new attorneys for the public
defender's office." The problem with this statement -- with the rationale
behind it and with its inclusion in the article -- is that the dollars being
discussed could not and would NEVER be used for those purposes because the
entities -- Cook County government and the Forest Preserve District of Cook
County -- are separate and distinct taxing bodies. Forest preserve dollars have
not and cannot be used to support either the Bureau of Health, the Public
Defender's Office or any other Cook County agency.
Forest Preserve District of Cook County makes up only 1 percent of Cook County
homeowners' tax bills and did not raise taxes in its FY 2009 budget. Yet for
that 1 percent, we proudly offer our visiting public over 300 miles of trails,
10 golf courses, four driving ranges, three aquatic centers, hundreds of picnic
groves, nearly 40 lakes and ponds and myriad volunteer opportunities, which
provide the district in excess of $400,000 in donated volunteer labor each