City Manager’s Column: City Approves 2019-2020 budget

By Thad Beard, Rockford City Manager

As you may know the City fiscal year begins July 1, which requires the new fiscal year budget be prepared and adopted in May.  Below are a few highlights from this year’s budget.

General Fund: The City budget consists of several funds required to provide essential services.  By far, the largest fund is the General Fund, which provides revenue for public safety, public works/services, parks and recreation, street improvements and general management activities.  These essential services are funded through two primary sources: State shared revenue (SSR) and property taxes.  In 2001, the State began a pattern of reducing SSR to local governments in order to balance their budget.  This year marks the first year we have received an amount equal to revenue before they began reducing it in 2001 SSR.  While we are finally receiving amounts equal 2011 SSR, we have seen a loss of 1.8 Million (unadjusted for inflation) over that time.  Thankfully, the City has experienced an increase in residential and commercial growth over the past few years, which has resulted in approximately 6% more in property taxes, this year.  The combination of the State shared revenue and property taxes enable us to continue to provide a high level of service to our City residents.  What I find amazing is that we continue to provide these services with fewer employees than compared to 2009.  While our population is approximately 30% greater than 2009, we have fewer employees and continue to find efficiencies in how to provide essential services at a very high level.  I am proud of the employees of Rockford and will highlight some of the amazing things they do in future articles.

Water and Sewer: The Water and Sewer Funds are enterprise funds, which require the revenue received to be used to cover costs to provide the services.  We maintain a 20-year capital improvement plant, reviewed by the State, which better ensures our utility systems remain in functional condition.  For example, the major improvement scheduled this coming year is the replacement of a sanitary sewer lift station in the Rockview neighborhood which will cost approximately $560,000.  The rates we determine every year are driven by the need to implement the improvement plan, and annual costs to provide the service.  This year, we will implement minor increases in both water and sewer rates.  The water rate is being increase by 1.5% and the sewer is being increased by 1.75%.  The sum of the two increases should result in a monthly increase of approximately $1.36 for a homeowner who uses 4,500 gallons.  We strive to keep increases low, while enabling us to have necessary revenue for repairs and necessary improvements.  In a recent survey, we found that our rates were near the average, though I know we all desires to pay less.