City of Rockford outlines two potential budgets, awaits Home Rul - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

City of Rockford outlines two potential budgets, awaits Home Rule decision

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ROCKFORD (WREX) -

Come March 26th, Rockford aldermen will have one of two potential budgets on their desk for a final vote.  It all hinges on what voters decide to do when it comes to Home Rule.  

If it's voted down, city staff say that means the budget will include a utility tax. 

"Which is a 5% tax on your heating and electricity," says Mayor Tom McNamara.  "So if you have a combined electric and gas bill of $100 that bill will now be $105 dollars if that budget is approved."

It's estimated this would bring in $3.5 million in 2018.  Putting Rockford roughly $360,000 shy of a balanced budget. 

If Home Rule passes, there would be a different tax, which McNamara says would be geared away from residents, and focused more on visitors.  The Redevelopment Tax would increase by 1%.  This tax pertains only to Hotel/Motel stays, packaged liquor sales, and restaurant visits. 

"If you have a $50 dinner bill, that now will be $50.50," says McNamara.  "It would be a one percent change."

Under Home Rule, the city says it could bill private companies that use the fire department for lift assists.  This would not be for private citizens or for those who are hurt and need to go to the hospital. 

"We do not want to penalize a individual home owner who has an incident and needs assistance," says city finance director Carrie Eklund. "This fee for service would only apply in instances where staffed medical support facility is choosing to shift the workers comp burden and liability associated from their staff and insurance policy to our staff."

Finally, licensing fees for gaming machines in the city would increase from $25 per machine to $1,000.

"At a $1000 dollars we would not make any one of those machines unprofitable for the owner."

The city estimates these three items would generate over $3.9 million in 2018.  This would close the deficit and give the city just over $33,000 in surplus.

While aldermen continue to look over the numbers, it's the voters who will ultimately have the biggest say when they hit the polls next week. Aldermen are scheduled to take a final vote on March 26th. 

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