Rockford Park District Board of Commissioners Approve 2018 Budget; Lower Tax Rate Anticipated Along with Reduction of Recreational Opportunities


On January 16, 2018, the Rockford Park District Board of Commissioners meeting approved the 2018 budget. For the fourth year in a row, the Rockford Park District will hold the line on taxes and maintain the 2017 tax levy, meaning the District will not receive any additional tax dollars in its operating funds.

“Over the last four years, we have saved taxpayers $1.7 million.  Achieving those savings resulted in some difficult cuts, but we know our tough decisions were the right call for the community.  The path to increased property values begins with the collective effort of all local taxing bodies working together to hold the line on taxes,” said Rockford Park District Board of Commissioners President Ian Linnabary. 

The resulting tax rate is estimated to decrease from last year’s tax rate of $1.1544 to $1.1362.  After several years of continued decline in the District’s Equalized Assessed Value (EAV), the District is experiencing a slight uptick. Based on preliminary EAV information, the estimated increase is 2.1% as compared to the 2016 Equalized Assessed Value for Winnebago, Boone, and Ogle counties. However, this is subject to change due to tax protests and appeals. EAV, tax levy extension, and tax rates are only estimates, as the actual information will not be available until spring.

This year, the District faced another $1 million deficit which is reflected in the 2018 operating budget which is $33,923,236 in 2018, and was $34,879,152 in 2017.  The District’s 2018 capital budget is $19,791,482 and in 2017 was $24,563,354.  The budget is balanced for the 109th consecutive year, within available resources, and is aligned to achieve the District’s Priority Results.  For the past 30 days, the 2018 budget was available for the public to view at the Webbs Norman Center, all area public libraries, and on the Park District website. A public hearing also took place before tonight’s vote. 

With a $1 million deficit this year, and $8.4 million in past budget reductions, the District can’t continue to sustain all aspects of District operations, and had to make tough yet strategic decisions regarding recreational opportunities for 2018. “A decline in revenue both through fees and a declining tax base, aging infrastructure, along with population and demographic shifts that impact our fee revenue have made it extremely difficult to provide the same level of service as in past years. We are running out of ways to scale back our service without having a significant impact on the youth we serve. The District is focused on making a stronger investment in youth, along with a recommitment to our core services and neighborhood parks, which are the backbone of our community,” said Rockford Park District Executive Director Jay Sandine.

To work towards a balanced budget, the District has continued to seek non-tax revenue, further reduce expenses, increase donor support, and explore lease and sale of land or property.

2018 Modification of Programs and Services

  • Not operating Forest City Queen and Trolley Car 36 for 2018 season
  • Closing Sand Park Pool for 2018 season and closing Harkins Aquatic Center two weeks earlier
  • Reduction of one week of the free Music in the Park Summer Concert Series (8 weeks vs. 9 weeks)
  • Elimination of indoor swimming lessons
  • Elimination of one youth day camp called Tween Scene/Summer Blast
  • Expanding hours of operation at Washington Park Community Center to invest in area youth
  • Increased support for Rockford Park District Police

2018 Revenue Adjustments

  • Video gaming at select locations
  • Select pricing increases in programs and rental opportunities
  • Increased Foundation support

2018 Expense Reductions

  • Elimination of four open full-time positions by attrition and restructuring
  • Elimination of event parking services for community partner events
  • Elimination of support to Community Centers for ground maintenance, reduction in contractual mowing
  • Savings from lower utility, gas, and health insurance costs