The Rockford School Board adopted a flat tax levy for the seventh consecutive year. The School Board voted tonight to hold the line on tax collections by levying well below its allowable rate. That means the district plans to again collect approximately $155 million from local tax revenue to fund the district and continue to provide much-needed relief to taxpayers.
The district's tax rate peaked at $7.93 in 2015 and dropped to $7.80 in 2016, then $7.65 in 2017. The RPS 205 administration and School Board have a shared goal to lower the tax rate to $7 as soon as possible. The School Board recommended a rate of $7.35 this year – a 30-cent drop in one year, and a nearly 60-cent drop from the peak rate. "The School Board and administration are providing resounding support for a flat tax levy to maximize the tax relief this budget cycle," said Superintendent Ehren Jarrett. "We are confident that we can continue to make a strategic investment in education and provide relief to taxpayers, as well. This has to be a focus to attract and retain families in our community."
RPS 205 makes up only 52 percent of the tax bill, which is the lowest portion compared to the nine school districts in the region (see below for 2017 data). That's why the district's partnership with other taxing bodies – and support to keep levies flat – is important in lowering Rockford's overall rate. "We're thrilled to see multiple community partners have done that," Jarrett said. "All our taxing bodies need to work together in a long-term strategy to grow our community by attracting people to live in Rockford."
|District ||Percent of Total Tax Bill|
|North Boone ||72%|
|South Beloit ||67%|
Note: North Boone and Belvidere benefit from a county-wide facilities sales tax.
Equalized assessed value or EAV – what local property is worth in RPS 205 – was just under $3 billion at the height of the national property boom in 2008. By 2016, EAV had dropped to under $2 billion. This year, EAV has increased 4.1 percent, in addition to $3.6 million in new property. That means there is additional money available that the district is giving back to taxpayers instead of collecting. RPS 205 has saved taxpayers more than $100 million in cost avoidance; money the district was allowed to collect, but didn't.
Background: The School Board in 2011 agreed to lower the tax levy by $13 million – from $170 million to $157 million, following the end of a five-year commitment from the Kids Win campaign. The campaign raised the levy by 58 cents to make improvements to the schools. Instead of collecting $170 million from RPS 205 taxpayers, the district collected $157 million. The district has continued to collect at that lower level:
|Year ||Amount collected|
While education expenses increase, district leaders are budgeting additional funding, thanks to the state's new evidence-based funding formula and support from local legislators. RPS 205 learned in April it would receive more than $8 million in Evidence Based Funding for the 2018-19 school year, and slightly more for the 2019-20 school year, based on the new formula. The funding model replaces General State Aid and is a comprehensive change to the way districts receive most of their state funds. District leaders are cautious in their planning for future budget cycles. "We've been fortunate that the state has really turned a corner these past two budget cycles with evidence-based funding, and we can course-correct future tax levies if the state doesn't continue that support," Jarrett said.
"People have choices where to own homes and send their children to school," said board member Tim Rollins. "The long-term health of the school district and the community depend on us continuing to improve outcomes, being good stewards of taxpayer dollars, and working together with other taxing districts to shrink the difference in the tax rate between Rockford and surrounding areas."