Rockford aldermen, looking for ways to generate revenue for a city that desperately needs it, have approved a budget that includes a utility tax on natural gas and electricity.

Many of the aldermen expressed a reluctance to vote for the utility tax, saying that they felt they had no choice since home rule went down to defeat at the ballot box last week, while others (3) voted no.

For residents, the utility tax will mean an extra $5.00 on a $100.00 dollar electric bill. Gas bills will also go up.

It's a much more difficult path for citizens that have to live in our community, that would turn on their lights or put on their heat," said McNamara. The Mayor adds with or without Home Rule, Rockford needs money. Finance Committee Chairman John Beck (R-12th) says the Rockford doesn't have many other options. "I was really hopefully we would have had Home Rule pass," said Ald. Beck. "That would have given us access to revenue sources that would have been widely dispersed and wouldn't have been as onerous on low-income folks or small business."

Once the city starts collecting the tax, it can generate about $4 million in revenue in it's first year, which helps with the Rockford's pension costs for police and fire. Five years ago, pension costs were just under 10 million, and this year they've increased to over 17 million. "It continues to rise at a dramatic pace, at a pace that our revenue can't keep up with," said McNamara. "At this point, either cut police officers or find new revenue source, which we don't have many options, outside of the utility tax."

Residents will probably see the utility tax increase on their statements within 90 days.

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