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Park District’s Turkey Surprise: ‘Nominal’ property tax hike proposal

The Chicago Park District is seeking a property tax hike as part of their 2018 budget proposal. | Christian K. Lee/Sun-Times file photo

An extra $6.48 would be tacked onto the average Chicago homeowner’s property tax bill under the Chicago Park District’s proposed $462.3 million budget for 2018.

The district announced the “nominal” property tax hike — its first in four years — late Wednesday afternoon ahead of the long holiday weekend, as part of a plan officials say will expand special recreation activities, including pilot programs for “adaptive sports, cultural and social opportunities” across the city.

The proposal also calls for a reduction in “full-time equivalent” positions, though it wasn’t clear how many or which positions would be cut.

The staffing reduction, combined with “strategic changes in healthcare, technology efficiencies and program efficiencies” will help the district trim more than $9.1 million to balance the budget, officials said.

“Despite the overall decrease in the number of full time equivalent positions, we will expand and enhance programming by regularly evaluating the program offerings, allocating resources in the most efficient manner possible and training staff to meet the needs of the city’s 77 communities,” park district Supt. Michael Kelly wrote in a letter accompanying the budget.

Kelly also highlighted new aquatic programs, environmental education programs and an expansion of natural areas included in the budget. The district has set a goal of having 2,020 acres of such green space by 2020.

The average six-week day camp will cost $270, up from the current $259 — still touted by the park district as “the best deal in town” compared to private camps. About $3 million is set aside for financial assistance to families in need.

The proposed property tax hike would be the latest for Chicagoans who have already been slapped with increases on their telephone, water and sewer bills, in addition to ride-hailing receipts and tickets to large concerts.

The park district unveiled their proposal hours after the CTA announced plans to raise bus and train fares by 25 cents.

Park district commissioners, who are appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, plan to vote on the budget Dec. 13.

The park district’s budget proposal is posted online at chicagoparkdistrict.com/departments/finance/budget-and-management/. A public hearing will be held Dec. 6 at the district’s main office at 541 N. Fairbanks.