Moody’s Ratings (Moody’s) has assigned a Aaa to the Park District of Highland Park, IL’s General Obligation Limited Tax Park Bonds, Series 2024 with a proposed par amount of $6.4 million. Moody’s maintains the district’s Aaa issuer rating and the Aaa rating on the district’s outstanding general obligation limited tax (GOLT) debt. Following the sale, the district will have about $33 million of debt outstanding.

RATINGS RATIONALE
The Aaa issuer rating reflects a large and affluent tax base that benefits from its location near Chicago. The district’s financial position will likely remain strong, supported by growing property tax revenue, sustained increases in program participation, and prudent budget management. Unaudited fiscal 2023 (year-end Dec. 31) results show an increase in fund balance following transfers to a capital project fund and year to date results for fiscal 2024 show mostly stable operations. The district’s long-term leverage will remain modest with no additional debt plans over the next two years.

The Aaa rating on the GOLT bonds is the same as the district’s Aaa issuer rating because of its pledge of all available funds to pay debt service and authority to levy an ad valorem tax that is unlimited as to rate but limited in amount by the district debt service extension base (DSEB).

RATING OUTLOOK
Moody’s typically does not assign outlooks to local governments with this amount of debt.

FACTORS THAT COULD LEAD TO AN UPGRADE OF THE RATING

FACTORS THAT COULD LEAD TO A DOWNGRADE OF THE RATING

LEGAL SECURITY
The district’s GOLT bonds are backed by an all available funds pledge of the district and its authority to levy ad valorem property taxes unlimited as to rate but limited by the amount of the district’s Debt Service Extension Base.

USE OF PROCEEDS
Proceeds will fund various facility improvements across the park district’s facilities.

PROFILE
The Park District of Highland Park encompasses the City of Highland Park (Aaa stable) and a small portion of the Village of Deerfield (Aaa stable) and is located about 26 miles north of the City of Chicago (Baa3 positive). The district provides various recreational services to over 30,000 residents.

Park District of Highland Park Executive Coordinator Roxanne Hejnowski was recognized with a Character Counts Pillar Award at the 2024 City of Highland Park Awards ceremony held on Thursday, April 11.

Presented annually by the City of Highland Park, North Shore School District 112, Highland Park High School, and the Park District of Highland Park, the awards honor those who have made positive, sustained, and impactful contributions to the community. The Park District of Highland Park is a member of the Highland Park Character Counts Steering Committee, which honors nominees whose beliefs, attitudes, and actions consistently exemplify the six pillars of character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship.  

Roxanne was nominated by a colleague for exemplifying the pillar of respect. An exceptional individual who consistently demonstrates respect in all her interactions, she has a unique ability to recognize the strengths in others and make them feel valued and heard. In her role as the lead for the Park District of Highland Park Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force, she has shown inclusive leadership, leading the team in organizing significant community donation drives and coordinating various activities to promote mental health and enhance workplace culture. Roxanne is praised for her diplomacy in navigating difficult conversations and her unwavering commitment to treating everyone with dignity. Her consistent pattern of respectful behavior makes her a role model for others and deserving of recognition.

Congratulations Roxanne. You exemplify the Park District’s values of being welcoming, caring, and extraordinary!

We are happy to report that the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) has awarded the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting to the Park District of Highland Park for its annual comprehensive financial report for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2022.  This is the 34th consecutive year the Park District has received the award.  The report has been judged by an impartial panel to meet the high standards of the program, which includes demonstrating a constructive “spirit of full disclosure” to clearly communicate its financial story and motivate potential users and user groups to read the report.

The Certificate of Achievement is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting, and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management.

Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) advances excellence in government finance by providing best practices, professional development, resources, and practical research for more than 21,000 members and the communities they serve.

Belle Kolman’s Remarkable Career at the Park District of Highland Park

Some paths take unexpected turns in life, leading us to extraordinary places. Belle Kolman’s journey at the Park District of Highland Park is a testament to this. Over three decades, she has witnessed and actively contributed to the evolution of her role and the organization. In this article, we explore Belle’s remarkable career, the experiences that have shaped her, and the enduring impact of her work with the Park District of Highland Park.

The Beginnings: Applying for the First Position

Belle’s journey with the Park District began when she and her family moved to Highland Park, seeking to supplement their income. Flexibility was crucial, as she had children to take care of. The opportunity came through a recommendation from the lady who sold them their house – a program at the Karger Center that allowed parents to drop in with their kids. Belle saw this as a perfect match for her needs, as she could bring her daughter along. Belle’s aspiration to become a child psychologist made this job even more appealing. She started at an hourly rate of $9, setting the stage for an incredible career ahead.

The First Day: A Memorable Encounter

Belle’s first day at the Park District is etched in her memory due to a heartwarming encounter. She met a little girl who happened to be friends with her daughter. When the girl’s mother arrived to pick her up, she was visibly upset, facing a family emergency that prevented her from visiting her family because she had her daughter with her. Belle’s kindness shone through as she took the child home with her. In a twist of fate, Belle discovered that the child’s father was a Big Brother to her sister at the University of Illinois. This unexpected connection deepened the bonds of friendship.

Building from Scratch: Belle’s Biggest Achievement

Remarkable achievements have marked Belle’s journey at the Park District, one of the most significant being her role in starting programs from scratch. She was instrumental in creating programs like “Moms Morning Away,” “Terrific Times,” and a “Moms and Tots” program at the Recreation Center of Highland Park when it first opened, alongside “Camp Tot Stop.” These programs were built from the ground up, with Belle overseeing everything from curriculum development to securing necessary supplies.

The Joy of the Job: Playing with Kids

One of the most cherished aspects of Belle’s work at the Park District is playing with the children. She often finds herself on the floor, giving the kids hugs and engaging in conversations. These interactions, spanning many years, have profoundly impacted Belle. The bonds formed and the joy she derives from these moments are unparalleled.

Evolution of the Work: Adapting to Change

Over the past 30 years, Belle has witnessed significant changes in childcare. With increasingly stringent regulations and administrative requirements, the job has evolved substantially. The focus now lies on what’s considered more appropriate and mainstream, with parents becoming more vigilant and watchful. The world has transformed, and so has the work.

Cherished Memories: Stories from the Heart

Belle has collected a trove of cherished memories throughout her journey with the Park District. She recalls being part of the “Touch a Truck” event and her playful role as Mrs. Potato Head for Halloween. The reunions with former students, including camp counselors, are moments of pride and nostalgia. Belle’s bonds with her colleagues and personal connections have been a source of immense happiness.

Belle’s incredible journey at the Park District is a testament to the passion, dedication, and love she brings to her work. Her remarkable career, marked by adaptability and unwavering commitment, is an inspiring example of the impact one person can make in the lives of children and families. As Belle continues to play an integral role at the Park District, her legacy is a testament to the organization’s enduring commitment to the community it serves.

Are you or your child/ren an alum of ParkSchool or one of Belle Kolman’s programs? Submit a memory or note to Belle here to celebrate her 30 years with the Park District of Highland Park!

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The Park District of Highland Park is a member of the Highland Park Character Counts Steering Committee in collaboration with the City of Highland Park, North Shore School District 112, and the Highland Park High School, which honors nominees whose beliefs, attitudes, and actions consistently exemplify the six pillars of character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.  

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2024 Character Counts Pillar Award, and we hope you will consider nominating worthy candidates from the Park District of Highland Park.  This year’s deadline is December 31, 2023

Character Counts Awards

The Six Pillars of Character is an integral part of the Highland Park community philosophy. To become more productive citizens of the future, children need to develop a set of core values that they can build on and call on throughout their lives to guide their behavior and attitudes. They also need adults serving as role models of good character.  Six building blocks of character – trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship – form the foundation of character education. These building blocks are inseparable parts of a complete attitude that will help children reduce risk behaviors, improve achievement and develop personal integrity, and for adults to live together in a civil manner.

These goals cannot be accomplished through the efforts of any one teacher, parent or institution. The responsibility for developing a nation of morally conscious students must be shared by all. Only through shared commitment can we hope to raise the level of character consciousness.

Thrilling triumph for the ages! Congratulations to our 8U Travel Baseball team, who defeated Lincolnshire Red on Saturday, July 22 to win the Lake Shore Feeder 8U North Championship game.

Coaches: Jordy Kirshenbaum, Dustin Dobslaf, James Duckmann (Left to Right) 
Players Top: Chase Kirshenbaum, Nate Wieden, Dylan Dobslaf, Micah Johnson, Colton Goehle, Parker Harrison, Jack Schreiber, Wells Projansky 
Bottom: Lorenzo Saliba, Maxwell Miller, Aiden Foss, (Standing in Front) Cade Levenstein

The team went 12-2 in Lake Shore Feeder League, ultimately placing second. After playing five games in six days, 8U lost back-to-back games to Lincolnshire Red (Lake Shore Feeder 8U North Regular Season Champion) and Buffalo Grove, two teams they beat in championship tournament games during the season. This cost 8U the regular season championship. However, indomitable spirit and unwavering teamwork propelled the team to eventual victory. After three days’ rest, they came back to beat Buffalo Grove in back-to-back games, advancing them to the second round of the playoffs to beat New Trier Bulldogs. They went on to defeat Lincolnshire Red 10-1 in the championship 8U North game.

Key Season Accomplishments:

Notable Wins

We are happy to report that the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) has awarded the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting to the Park District of Highland Park for its annual comprehensive financial report for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2021.  This is the 33rd consecutive year the Park District has received the award.  The report has been judged by an impartial panel to meet the high standards of the program, which includes demonstrating a constructive “spirit of full disclosure” to clearly communicate its financial story and motivate potential users and user groups to read the report.

The Certificate of Achievement is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting, and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management.

Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) advances excellence in government finance by providing best practices, professional development, resources, and practical research for more than 21,000 members and the communities they serve.

Congratulations to our gymnastics team that competed on Saturday, March 4 in Schaumburg at the Spring Into Gymnastics Meet.  In the Level 3: 11-year-old division for the All-Around, Clara Rozenberg was awarded 4th place, Lena Whittman placed 3rd and Olivia Rogic was awarded 1st place.  In the Level 3: 12-year-old division for the All-Around award, Kaylee Lynch placed 3rd and Noa Schwab came in 1st place.

Lena Whittman, Clara Rozenberg, Kaylee Lynch, Noa Schwab, Olivia Rogic
Olivia Rogic & Noa Schwab – All-Around Champions

Governor JB Pritzker, along with state and local leaders and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), today announced that the Park District of Highland Park was one of 118 park and recreation agencies throughout the State to receive an Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) grant. The Park District of Highland Park was awarded a $600,000 grant to fund a portion of a Sunset Woods Park revitalization project, including the installation of a rain garden with native plantings and an interpretive sign, a new game area, the replacement and relocation of the 16-year-old basketball court to create a multi-use sports court, the replacement and relocation of the 21-year-old skate park, and a new wheel friendly plaza that creates a space for all ages and wheel activities. Sunset Woods Park is a 34-acre community park in downtown Highland Park that serves all residents. The Sunset Woods Revitalization Project seeks to enhance roughly 9 acres of the park by implementing initiatives from the park’s master plan.

The OSLAD grant program was designed to help communities fund land acquisition and development for parks and outdoor recreation projects.  Established by the Illinois General Assembly in 1986, OSLAD is a cost-sharing program between state and local governments that has become one of Illinois’ most popular grant programs. Since its establishment, OSLAD has awarded over $530 million for park projects throughout Illinois (including the awards announced today).  OSLAD grants typically provide up to 50% of funding for a project – excluding economically distressed communities where 100% of project costs have been covered. The other 50% is supplied by matching funds from the project’s local government agency.

“We are thrilled to be awarded the OSLAD grant to allow us to invest in Sunset Woods Park, our community’s central downtown park,” said Brian Romes, executive director for the Park District of Highland Park. “The Park District heard from many residents through the Sunset Woods Master Planning effort, and we are grateful for the support from the OSLAD grant program to be able to act on initiatives from that plan. The Park District is excited to begin engaging the community through the design process.”

The Park District of Highland Park had a significant presence at this past weekend’s Illinois Parks and Recreation Association’s (IPRA) Annual Conference, winning multiple awards and recognition. The Park District was presented with the Illinois Park and Recreation Association’s (IPRA) Outstanding Program Award for its Dia De Los Muertos special event. It is the association’s top award given to one agency out of over 2,000 from across Illinois for outstanding and unique achievements in developing and implementing a program. The Park District received several other top State of Illinois awards, including first place for best website, two first-place and two second-place awards for photography, and third place award for the best logo for The Preserve of Highland Park. 

The IPRA Board of Directors also presented the Park District of Highland Park staff and Board of Commissioners with its Annual Chair Award, recognizing the Park District for the exceptional care and support it provided to the Highland Park community in the hours, days, weeks, and months following the tragic shooting at the July 4th Parade. IPRA Board Chair Trisha Breitlow presented the award and shared the following:

Fred Rogers had an innate ability to reinforce positive interaction between children and adults. I believe one of his quotes has a particularly profound message for those who choose parks and recreation as a profession: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.””

The Park District of Highland Park exemplified this beyond comprehensible magnitude, after the terrifying events during their 4th of July parade.  This award is not being presented to bring additional attention to the terrible events of that day, but to recognize the helpers that were there and sprang into action instantly. These are our friends and colleagues who continue to take care of their community members, visitors, and each other.  That day, their immediate actions provided shelter, safety, assistance, and reassurance to thousands of people. The grief and pain that followed impacted the park district directly, but while dealing with that, they worked tirelessly to be a continued support and origin of assistance for the community and for their own staff. They were a source for widely communicating resources, support, and services available to their community.  They knew the importance of providing opportunities for physical and mental solace by re-opening their golf, boating and recreation facilities within days, yet also balanced this with extreme caution, taking care of their young staff and giving extra time to re-open camp. And the enthusiasm, resilience and excitement for those services was amazing.  The leadership at the district also made sure to take care of their full-time staff, providing compassion, patience and grace. All while they continued to provide outstanding award-worthy services and facilities serving as a pillar in their community. 

Collectively, our profession cannot thank you enough nor provide the recognition you truly deserve as you represented our field and what we do with such resilience and humility, providing unmatched examples of what parks and recreation provides. I am proud and honored to be part of this profession for many reasons, but words cannot express how proud we all are of Highland Park.