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School Board agrees to keep levy flat, save taxpayers nearly $8M


​​The Rockford School Board tonight agreed to keep its tax levy rate flat for the upcoming taxing cycle, which equals a nearly $8 million savings for taxpayers. Over the course of 10 years, abating the Consumer Price Index – or CPI – would save taxpayers $70.7 million.

Over the past two tax levy years, RPS and its School Board have returned nearly $31 million to taxpayers. Returning the 58 cent “Kids Win” referendum alone last year saved RPS taxpayers more than $26 million. The abatement of CPI in those years also adds up to nearly $8 million.

“We aren’t compelled to do this. We want to,” said Superintendent Ehren Jarrett. “Rockford has shown its faith and trust in the schools. We are doing this in spite of numerous risks because we want to support our taxpayers during difficult times.”

Despite the board’s action on Tuesday, the tax rate is still expected to increase because of falling property values. It will increase less than expected, however, because the board did not take what is entitled under state law: It did not increase the rate to an amount tied to the Consumer Price Index. The rate could have grown to $7.33; instead, it is expected to increase to $7.22. (Taking the CPI increase would have raised taxes on a $100,000 home by $37.)

Tax relief is especially important when people are hurting, board member and Operations Committee Chairman Tim Rollins said at a board meeting earlier this month. “We ought to make an effort to hold the line on our levy,” Rollins said.

The levy adopted this December will drive tax revenue collection in the spring of 2014 and the fall of 2014. It represents $2.4 million in foregone revenue – a $1.2 million impact during the 2013-14 school year and another $1.2 million impact during the 2014-15 school year.

Before RPS returned the 58 cents (in the 2011 levy year), only Pecatonica School District had a higher tax rate. The 2012 rate was nearly $6.69 – only the fourth-highest in the region, behind Harlem, South Beloit and North Boone school districts.​