Jail tax funding feud emerges

Jail tax funding feud emerges

By Jeff Havens, Staff Writer

Even before the jail tax goes into effect July 1, conflicts are emerging concerning what agency will receive funding from the expected $23 million in annual revenue. The city may want jail tax money from the county, the county may want money from the city and a proposed program may set up competition for dollars and duplicate services.

Rockford Alderman Frank Beach (R-10) proposed in the May 19 Finance Committee meeting that the county give the city $500,000 annually from the imminent jail tax. Beach proposed the city be able to spend the money, at the city’s discretion, on police, fire and public safety issues.

However, according to a May 5 document from the construction management team of Scandroli/Ringland-Johnson/Bovis, the team proposes the county obtain funding from the city and other sources for “Winnebago County’s Diversity Inclusion Program.” According to the document, the $2.7 million program may be modeled after “existing programs aimed at recruitment, training and employment of minority individuals for work in the construction trades…”

Beach said he would like to learn more about the program before taking a position on whether he would back such an effort because he thought the county jail tax would fund such programs, not the city.

The proposed program duplicate services already in existance at YouthBuild Rockford. Kerry Knodle, YouthBuild director said, “To a large degree it [the proposed program] duplicates what we do.” Knodle added that he would llike to see more cooperation and coordination between the entities that are trying to put forth the effort. Knodle also said the proposed program may setup competition for dollars, depending on what entities apply and what monies are available.

The task suggesting how to spend jail tax money on construction was assigned to members of the “citizens” committee on public safety. Local attorney Larry Morrissey, chairman of the construction committee said he was unaware of the proposal but would like to review the document.

Winnebago County Board member Randy Sturm (R-5) said the jail tax was not passed to fund uses that Beach proposed. Beach countered that 67 percent of county residents live in Rockford and the city’s crime rate is higher than the county’s. Therefore, it only makes sense that the city be given $500,000 of the estimated $23 million the one percent increase in the local sales tax will generate annually.

Ed Wells, columnist for the Rockford Register Star, broke the story about the construction management team’s proposal May 26.

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