City leaders discuss Rockford Promise funding structure

Published: Dec. 9, 2020 at 6:36 PM CST
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - “This isn’t a Rockford maybe, this is a Rockford promise,” said City of Rockford Finance Director Carrie Hagerty.

On Monday, the Rockford City Council passed a balanced budget for 2021. It also approved an advance of $1.5 million annually from revenue the city expects to see from the Hard Rock Casino.

The money will be used to fund the newest partnership between the Rockford Promise scholarship program and Northern Illinois University allowing some students to go college without having to pay tuition.

“I believe it’s a tremendous investment with a great return on investment. And it’s exactly what we should be doing with some of the dollars from the new casino that we will be having in less than about 150 days,” said Mayor Tom McNamara.

City of Rockford Finance Director Carrie Hagerty says the 17-year commitment is designed to give Rockford families peace of mind when it comes to planning out their futures.

“It has to be consistent annual funding, so that the student the parents that are making decisions on where to live, where to buy a house, know that they can rely on that funding from the city to continue, and that program to deliver on what we’re saying right now we wanted to provide,” said Hagerty.

With the scholarship funding making up less than 1 percent of the city’s more than $170 million budget, McNamara says it’s worth the return on investment.

“Educating our young people, providing opportunities for our young people to succeed, in reducing barriers to our young people so that they can succeed, and that they can continue to call Rockford home proudly is a priority of mine, and we will fund it as such,” said McNamara.

Interested students have until February 1 to apply for the scholarship, with the first funds available in the Fall 2021 semester.

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