This time around, the 2005 proposed Rockford City budget was easier for alderman to see and hear. For the first time in 2 years the budget is balanced and positions are being added.
Monday night, Rockford Mayor Doug Scott unveiled his financial vision for the city of Rockford. The 2005 budget totals $181 million which is about six million dollars less than last year. In 2003 and 2004 the city lost staff and some services so what was lost has not been restored.
Scott says, “The number is smaller but it's coming on top of everything else. But thankfully we don't have to cut people this year."
We even get a break on our garbage bills. The surcharge to help cover July 5th windstorm will end at the end of December. But while we save on one bill, we will see an increase in our ambulance fees. If approved expect about a $20 to $40 hike depending on where you live. This is an increase that we haven't had to deal with for the past 2 years. This proposed budget also won't make us pay any new or additional sales or property tax.
Alderman Dave Johnson says, "We have high taxes for the City of Rockford and you can't sit back and say we have a great budget. We didn't go up a lot but the problem is we are already up."
The Rockford Police Department would get back to having a full staff and the complete the second year of the Capital Equipment Purchase program. Last year the city purchased a total of 44 various vehicles that would go to the Police department, Fire department and Public Works. In the 2005 budget the city would buy 18 police cars and a van to add to the new fleet.
Rockford Police Chief Steve Pugh says, "They are needed. The fleet is getting old and unreliable. This would help a lot."
As we end the 2004 fiscal year the city is calculating a $1 million surplus. That money can be used to add 7 new city employees including a Grant Writer and a Special Projects Coordinator.
When asked if Alderman Jeff Holt would support the budget he said, "I think I would support it. I have concerns, minor concerns about details regarding public safety and public improvements."
At first glance most other alderman agree stating this year's budget is a welcomed change after a couple of tough years. The city budget heads to Finance and Personnel Committee to be reviewed. The City Council has till the end of March to approve a new 2005 budget.