The Rockford School Board tonight agreed to keep its tax levy flat, marking the sixth consecutive year Rockford Public Schools has held the line on tax collections by levying well below its allowable rate.
The district’s tax rate peaked at $7.93 in 2015 and dropped to $7.80 in 2016. The School Board recommended a $7.72 rate this year and plans to collect a flat levy again at $154.5 million. “Our School Board has illustrated strong fiscal responsibility,” said Superintendent Ehren Jarrett. “We’re trying to do our part to relieve the tax burden and still invest in our students with high quality education. I believe that’s what’s right for our community.”
The levy is the amount of money the district collects from local taxpayers. The district has again set a lower levy, meaning it has collected less money from taxpayers than it is allowed to. It has done that, in part, by not collecting tax revenue that would be generated by claiming tax increase factors such as the Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation rate, new property credits and Tax Increment Financing (TIF) recovery credits.
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, the last fiscal year, EAV had dropped to under $2 billion. That’s a 33 percent decrease in the EAV, which causes the tax rate to increase. But the tax rate doesn’t tell the whole story. A closer review shows the district has been fiscally responsible with taxpayers’ money.
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:
Tax relief could be on the horizon as property values have started increasing modestly over the last two tax cycles. “The public schools are trying to do more with less as the region’s property values continue to recover. We want to be part of the solution in RPS 205,” Jarrett said.
In 2016, RPS 205 ranked fourth of nine regional school districts when comparing tax rates:
North Boone 8.54
South Beloit 6.98
“In our region, people can make a choice about where to live,” said Tim Rollins, board member and chairman of the board’s Finance Committee. “It’s in the district’s best interest to collaborate with Rockford’s other taxing bodies to make Rockford regionally competitive when it comes to that choice of where to own a home.”