Rockford 2020 budget proposal balanced

ROCKFORD, Ill (WIFR) -- Unlike many nearby areas, Rockford city leaders passed a balanced budget in 2019. After hearing tonight's presentation, it seems 2020 will follow suit.

Budget proposal balanced

"We're looking at another balanced budget," says Finance Director Carrie Hagerty to council members. "That this budget that we're presenting today is a culmination of years of work to make sure that we're operating at peak efficiency."

The proposal shows a 13 percent increase since last year, putting the general fund at $163 million. Overall expenses increased $6.1 million since 2017. A large part of that includes pensions, IMRFs and health increases.

One item Hagerty says is important to the community is property taxes. That's why for the second consecutive year she suggests keeping a flat tax levy on those taxes.

"We are able to still provide all of those great services with a balanced budget, and without property tax increases," she explains to 23 News.

The city will leave about 1 million dollars on the table by keeping the flat levy, but leaders agree it's somethig important to the community.

Equally as important but full of debate is juvenile crime. Camp Hope is the juvenile crime prevention strategy aimed to reduce the number of local kids entering the criminal justice system.

It's been the topic of discussion at several council meetings, but tonight the debate closed with an eight to six vote approving the staffing position for a Camp Hope supervisor.

The program could cost the city $300,000 over the next three years if they do not receive federal funding. Those that voted against it say they wish the camp was exclusive to Rockford kids only, instead of allowing nearby areas to potentially benefit when Rockford seems to see the crime worse.

Others say there is not sufficient information proving the camp works. They also don't want to assume they will recieve the grant. Mayor Tom McNamara spoke out, saying they cannot keep sitting by.

"$171 million budget. We're looking at $300,000, I think that's worth spending in hopes of improving our child's outcome so that they don't feel the need to turn to violence when they come to a conflict," he expresses. "We simply need to stop doing the things that we've always been doing and try something new."