ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Standard & Poor’s has raised the credit rating for Rockford Public Schools from A+ to AA-. The rating puts RPS 205 in the same credit category with some of the best school districts in Illinois. S&P cited the district’s strong financial performance and the diverse Rockford economy as factors in the credit rating increase, which is estimated to save taxpayers more than $3 million in interest expense.
Conservative budgeting and the recent 10 Year Facilities Plan were also strengths for the district, according to the ratings service. The S&P credit rating is the cornerstone for determining the interest rates on the upcoming bond sale. The higher the credit rating, the lower the interest rate. The bonds will be used for $139 million of school improvements, the first phase of a $311 million plan overwhelmingly approved by voters in November.
Tim Rollins, School Board member and chairman of the Operations Committee, said the district’s financial achievements are shared. “Credit also goes to community organizations like the Rockford Area Economic Development Council and the Rockford Area Association of Realtors,” Rollins said. “We asked them for economic data that would support our presentation to Standard & Poor’s, and they really came through for us.”
The district’s good news comes in stark contrast to difficulties in years past, Interim Superintendent Robert Willis said. “It wasn’t too long ago we had to send layoff notices to teachers this time of year because of a money crunch,” Willis said. “It wasn’t good business. It wasn’t good for our people or, most importantly, the students we educate.” Fiscal stability at RPS 205 is especially remarkable given the uncertainties of education funding in Illinois and the region. In addition, the School Board in November made good on a promise to taxpayers and reduced the levy by the 58 cents approved by voters in 2006. The reduction was not required by law.