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Rockford Park District approves property tax levy hike, secures money for Riverview Ice House

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — The Rockford Park District Board of Commissioners voted Monday night to raise its property tax levy, the latest chapter in a saga to close a budget deficit.

The board approved an increase in its property tax levy by 2.3 percent, which means homeowners will pay about $10 more for every $100,000 a home is worth. About 7.7% of a Rockford resident’s total tax bill is attributed to the Rockford Park District, according to the district.

A prominent part of discussion in past board meetings is that the park district has not increased its property tax levy in 6 years and the minimum wage in Illinois set to increase to $11 per hour on Jan. 1. The decision also comes during the COVID-19 pandemic, which the park district said cost it nearly $1.7 million in fee revenue and more than $2 million overall.

“We are aggressively pursuing non-tax revenue support, continuing to reduce our footprint, and making good business decisions.  This is a critical point in our organization’s history, where continuing to eliminate programs, services, and facilities will negatively impact youth, crime, property values, and economic development opportunities," Rockford Park District Executive Director Jay Sandine said in a statement to 13 WREX. "Our community has a lot to risk without a strong and financially sustainable park district."

The loss in fee revenue is ultimately why the board of commissioners said they voted earlier this month to close Elliot Golf Course and repurpose Mercyhealth Sportscore One. Sandine told 13 WREX earlier this month that the sale of Elliot Golf Course could come as soon as 2021 and repurposing Sportscore One is a part of a five-year plan to open the space for conservation.

Riverview Ice House and an acre of Beyer Park, home of the Rockford Peaches, came up in discussion in hopes to save money. The district said it will sell an acre of Beyer Park, with the ultimate goal to become a museum on the north end of the property, in an effort spearheaded by the International Women's Baseball Center.

Keeping Riverview Ice House open

Monday night also marked the end of a battle to save Riverview Ice House as the board of commissioners approved grant and donation money to keep the 45-year-old facility open.

A $2.5 million state grant secured by Sen. Steve Stadelman (D) Rockford and two donations totaling $1.2 million over 10 years is the reason the board Monday approved allocating $3.5 million in capital funds to keep Riverview Ice House open.

The facility, which sits on the Rock River, is in need of about $6 million in renovations, which the grant, donations and capitol funds will pay for, according to the district.

The Provanzano family, which owns Supply Core, and the Koch family, which owns Prairie Street Brewhouse, donated $1 million and $200,000, respectively according to board members. According to the park district in October, the community interest to donate to save the ice house is why the park district took it off the chopping block. The group Save Riverview Ice House started petitioning in October to try and convince the board to keep it open.

The board of commissioners is expected to see a final presentation of the 2021 budget on Jan. 12 with a vote slated for Feb. 23.

Breane Lyga

Breane Lyga is the content manager at 13 WREX. She joined the team in 2015 as the 5, 6 and 10PM news producer after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She was 13 WREX’s assignment editor from 2017 to 2018.

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