City of Rockford: Seven Year Financial Plan

Report National Resource Network Rockford, Illinois October 9, 2018 Finance + Operation

As a traditional northern manufacturing community, the City of Rockford’s economy has struggled for decades but was particularly hard-hit by the broader economic declines following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the 2008 financial crisis. By 2017, Rockford faced a population decline of over three percent in five years, a poverty rate of nearly 25 percent, and an average unemployment rate of 6.6 percent. Notably, nearly 45 percent of Rockford children under age five were living in poverty. In addition, Rockford had an urgent need to align spending with available revenues due to large and increasing pension obligation, collective bargaining constraints and rising personnel costs, and limited revenue options due to lack of home-rule status.

In 2017, the City of Rockford applied to the National Resource Network for assistance with multi-year financial planning. The Network recommended that the City develop a seven-year financial plan to give policy makers the tools to make sound decisions. To frame the plan, the Network focused on key priorities to address going forward:

  • Fiscal Stability
  • Crime Reduction
  • Investing in community and economic development

The Network partnered with city leaders to develop a multi-year financial plan and associated budget model tool to allow the city to project revenues and expenditures, and to better understand how discrete budget decisions would impact available resources in the future.

Despite its challenges, Rockford had significant opportunities and potential for growth and fiscal sustainability. The Network developed an asset-driven approach to Rockford’s economic recovery. Taking into account Rockford’s numerous higher education options, redevelopment potential along the Rock River, its renowned regional parks district, and valuable public assets, the Network designed a seven-year financial model to bridge forecasted budget gaps to make Rockford a more attractive place to live and work. The Network worked closely with department heads and city leaders to identify opportunities to reduce fiscal liabilities and increase the effectiveness and efficiency of city government. Upon completion, the Network presented a menu of choices to the city to close projected deficits and create funding for investments in neighborhood revitalization.

The Network’s engagement in Rockford was led by Network Consortium member PFM. The full report is available online here.

City of Rockford: Seven Year Financial Plan