Rockford Park District Looks To Lower Tax Rate For Residents
At the November 21,2023 Board of Commissioners meeting, Rockford Park District staff presented a preliminary 2023 budged which reflected a $1.033 million deficit. The deficit is due to increased investments in safety and security of parks and facilities, minimum wage increases for seasonal and part time staff, and increased costs for supplies, utilities, and services utilized by the Park District.
The Rockford Park District mainly operates on two revenue streams; property taxes and the fees charged for services. The Park District does not receive sales tax, motor fuel tax, utility tax, marijuana tax revenue, or casino revenue. The Park District also never received any American Rescue Plan Act funding or any other federal COVID-19 releif funds unlike some municipalities who received millions of dollars. COVID-19 relief funding would have helped rebuild what was lost during years of budget cuts amid a global pandemic. Over the last several years, the Park District budget has also been impacted by a mandated minimum wage increase, local economic conditions, COVID-19 closures, rising costs of doing business, and community crim which prompted the Park District's need for additional investment in safety strategies.
"During the heart of the pandemic, we saw the impact of what it means to shut down the Rockford Park District and the negative effects that had on youth, teens, and families along with our communities' physical, social, and emotional health. During this time, juvenile crime increased 100% and the millions of dollars of economic impact created by District's sports facilities through tournaments and events was zero. Our youth and teens are in crisis and parks and recreation plays a big role in prevention and intervention. The Rockford Park District improves the quality of life for all in our community, helps retain families, and attracts new homeowners and businesses. Additional cuts would impact our ability to provide services, programming, and as a result will drastically impact youth, crime, property values, and economic development opportunities and will cost taxpayers even more in the long run," said Rockford Park District Commissioner Martesha Brown.
Only 7.9% of a Rockford resident's total 2021 tax bill was attributed to the Rockford Park District and supports 180 parks and facilities, 4,919 acres, 118 parks, 82 outdoor playgrounds, 73 miles of trails, camps, lessons, leagues, programs, free concerts, and much more. To reach a balanced budged agencies such as the Park District can capture additional dollars as permitted by the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law to avoid a reduction of services. The Park District will maintain the same level of critical services to youth teens, and families while still lowering the overall tax rate for those who live within Rockford Park District boundaries for the sixth year in a row. The district estimates an overall tax rate reduction from $.9739 to $.9450. This means someone who owned a home valued at $100,000 in 2021 would contribute an estimated $1.48 more a month due to property values increasing. The 2023 budget includes keeping the same level of critical services, increasing minimum wage to help attract and retain team members, and investing in the safety and security of your parks and facilities by hiring three additional Rockford Park District police officers. Formal approval of the 2023 budget will take place at the January 24, 2023 board meeting.