• Megann Horstead

NL Park Board could cap off bond payment for capital project by year’s end


New Lenox Community Park District is set to consider ordinances for budget appropriation and bond issuance, said Greg Lewis, its executive director, recently.

Commissioners discussed the two actions the board could take at a June 21 special meeting. Such measures, if approved in July, will help pay off the acquisition of 701 W. Haven Ave., formerly the site of the New Lenox Police Station, by the year’s end.

The bond paid in full over the last six years will help the Park District in securing an estimated $1.171 million to help balance its budget.

“That’s where I’m saying we’re about $88,000 over [budget,]” said Greg Lewis, executive director of New Lenox Community Park District. “We cut a parking lot, we don’t do tennis courts. There’s various ways [to reduce the deficit], or we [allocate] money a different way, or we fund some of the playgrounds out of [Americans with Disabilities Act.]”

Lewis wants the Park District to start setting aside capital funds, instead of operating off its Corporate and Recreation funds.

Officials intend to maintain space to operate with funds budgeted for acquisition and Americans with Disabilities Act amounting to $150,000 each. That provides the board with some flexibility.

A law came on line recently to alter the way in which the Park District can pledge money to support its bond projects, and it tightens controls on spending by requiring taxing bodies to be more specific on how money is spent.

Lewis said the new regulation may limit the Park District to an extent, but they have other options moving forward.

“District-wide, we’re very healthy, we’re very frugal, and we plan well,” he said.

Lewis cautioned the board’s spending to construct new parks and said they must keep in mind improvements to such properties will eventually be needed.

Bond projects are typically tied into the Park District’s capital plan, and officials are working to make sure it is aligned with the second draft of its Master Plan.

“Now that we start working on fund policy and setting money aside, you’ll have some money to do some stuff,” he said. “It just can’t absorb the big ticket stuff like we tried to do. So, I think we got a lot [accomplished.] We caught it quick, and we got a good plan. Timing is everything.”

“Right now from we can see in that [Master Plan,] it’s right on line with what we showed as efficiency with facilities and things we need to address,” Lewis said. “There’s no surprises, I think, we’re right on target with everything.”

Lewis remembers a time when improvements were needed at the Lions Community Center to fix the roofing and parking lot.

“We made it through it,” he said of the Park District’s concern for how to fund upgrades. “We’ve addressed, or planned to addressed, all the major things I could think of with the District. I think we’re in pretty good shape.”

The next step in the process is for the Park Board to identify projects to pursue in the fall and spring.

New Lenox has more than 30 parks and upgrades at Crystal Springs Park were identified as one of the board’s priorities. Other projects coming on line could include roof repairs, equipment replacements and a potential land purchase.

“This is really just the first step of the whole process, but like I said, we’ve done a lot of homework in the last couple years and laid out projects and needs and things that have to get done,” Lewis said.

Officials anticipate reissuing a non-referendum bond for additional capital projects in July.

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