Long term budget adjustments could mean changes in public safety structure in Rockford

ROCKFORD – (WREX)  If the city of Rockford doesn’t make any changes to the way it operates, it faces a cumulative $81 million deficit. Which is why the city is taking a close look at an extensive list of recommendations compiled by the National Resource Network.

Finding solutions to the budget shortfall is something Mayor Tom McNamara says won’t happen overnight.

“The idea you can just cut your way out of this is pretty naive and pretty foolish.”

With police and fire making up 76% of the city’s budget, reforming those departments is a big focus of the recommendations.

“We’ve invested heavily in public safety, that is our number one priority.”

For example, when it comes to police there’s a priority on investing in crime prevention initiatives, like education programs and the proposed Family Justice Center.  Mayor McNamara says this could mean fewer officers needed in the future if domestic violence and youth violence decreases.

“As we work on the preventative side and we see even more and more success then you’ll be able to pull back on the enforcement side. We will always put public safety first, but as we see success we can utilize those dollars in other initiatives.”

McNamara says no decisions will happen quickly, or without ample input from all the agencies and the community.  But, he says there’s no escaping the city has quite a few hard choices to make in the coming years.

“There’s not one tough decision you could possibly make, it’s going to be 15 to 25 decisions that we’ll have to make as a community to make sure we’re sustainable and a community that people want to chose.”

Mary Sugden

Mary Sugden

Investigative Reporter

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