Morrissey warns cuts could impact critical services

Staff Report

ROCKFORD – Governor Bruce Rauner has proposed that the municipal share of state income taxes known as the Local Government Distributive Fund (LGDF) will be cut in half beginning in July of 2015.

Since 1969, Illinois municipalities have partnered with the state to maintain the LGDF to fund core municipal services such as police, fire, roads, sidewalks, planning, zoning, public safety, water, sewer, public works and snowplowing to help keep local tax burdens lower.

“Illinois municipalities are in crisis, including Rockford,” said Mayor Larry Morrissey. “The proposed reduction to the LGDF would cut an immediate $7.5 million dollars out of our budget. If these cuts are made, the burden would shift disproportionately to our police, public works and support departments. To balance our budget, we would be forced to cut approximately 40 police officers or more in a city with one of the highest violent crime rates in the nation.”

Rockford’s real estate values have not recovered since the crash of 2008. Local property tax assessments have continued to drop over the last five years resulting in Rockford’s tax rate to exceed 14 percent of assessed value.

“Ever since an arbitrator awarded Rockford firefighters a minimum manning clause in 1999, we have been forced to reduce police and public works disproportionately,” added Morrissey.

“Plus, we have worked hard to manage responsibly the increasing costs imposed by years of pension sweeteners along with relentless collective bargaining labor cost increases,” he continued.

“As a result, we have consistently had one of the state’s highest property tax rates simply to keep pace with actuarial required pension payments and labor arbitration awards.”

Brad Cole, executive director of the Illinois Municipal League, is seeing similar dire provisional budgeting scenarios readied across the state.

“Cutting the LGDF is a misguided effort because Illinois municipalities have managed their LGDF revenue responsibly over the years,” Cole says.

“This record of excellent fiscal stewardship by municipal governments, encouraged by accountability to local voters, is a compelling argument to maintain the local share of LGDF revenue. The reality is that when fewer dollars are returned to local governments, it means the politicians at the state capitol are spending more of our money.”

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