Rockford Park District works with community on budget solutions

Community works with Rockford park district

ROCKFORD, Ill (WIFR) -- "I want to save the park district," says community activist Jim McDowell. "We're starting with Sinnissippi and working our way around town."

More than 100 community members were at the Rockford park district's board meeting Tuesday night to discuss the potential closure of the Sinnissippi golf course. They were asked to bring ideas to save the course, or close the deficit. They did just that.

"The fact is, is we need your help," says Rockford park district's Jay Sandine. And public speakers say they need time.

"We believe that with some proactive programs it can be returned to a profitable status," explains McDowell. "Time, only time can do that."

Sinnissippi is the least played of the five Rockford courses, but it is not losing the most money. The Aldeen course is projected to lose $242,053 in 2019, whereas Sinnissippi will lose $119,111. This confused many in Tuesday night's crowd. But officials say Aldeen is one of the nicest courses, and the only set up like a country club.

"The facts are less people are playing there [Sinnissippi] right now," says Sandine. "It's easier in our eyes to modify that land into something we think would be more of a community benefit."

Community benefits, such as pools and parks, ranked highest priority in a survey the district sent out to Rockford residents, and nearly 3,000 responded. The lowest valued facilities were individual-based activities like golf and dog parks.

District officials took the meeting as an opportunity to share budget details with the public. "So we have very limited revenue streams," explains Sandine. For the past five years the park district has held the line on your tax dollars for our operating budget."

The park district is funded from property taxes and fees for it's facilities. The public meeting served as a way to discuss differences in a non-accusatory way.

"A lot has been learned on both sides of the table," says McDowell. "We've learned a lot about the park district and it's challenges and they've learned that there is a community trying to help."