Small amount of bond went to sports fields

RPS’s Mike Cuneo offers breakdown on millage spending

It may look as though the lion’s share of $45.8 million in remodeling for Rockford’s schools went to athletic fields, but that could not be further from the truth, stated Mike Cuneo, Director of Finance at Rockford Public Schools.

Cuneo said improvements to athletic fields throughout the district are easy to see, while improvements in the school and to the buildings themselves may be less obvious to the public. He shared this information Thursday, November 5 at the Rockford Historical Society meeting.

Cuneo said building improvements took up 70 percent of the money slated for the building fund that voters approved in May of 2008. The vote, just as this November’s was, was a renewal that did not increase taxes. According to Cuneo, technology improvements took up 17 percent and the athletic field improvements constituted only 13 percent of the spending. “We cannot use any of this money for operations,” he reiterated. Some have questioned updating technology and buildings at a time when the school faces dire cuts from state funding.

“There is a building fund and there is an operation fund,” Cuneo said. “It is two different monies that cannot be co-mingled.”

For technology, much of the money was used to put projectors in every classroom. On the elementary schools, classrooms were added to bring students out of mobile classrooms outside schools. “With as many schools as possible we have tried to increase parking,” Cuneo said.

Cuneo received a bit of a grilling over the question of a second high school. He explained that Rockford could likely build a second high school, but there isn’t money to operate a second high school in the district. Rockford’s Superintendent Michael Shibler has also addressed this issue in the past, pointing out that the high school seems huge, but is actually not at capacity, where many elementary schools in the district are over capacity.

Cuneo told the audience that it costs $3 million to operate a high school annually.

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