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Parks millage will be on November ballot for Rockford residents

2020 early vote total exceeds 2016 early votes
Posted at 12:45 PM, Aug 03, 2021

ROCKFORD, Mich. — Rockford will ask residents to consider a dedicated millage to support parks, trails and outdoor spaces when they go to the polls in November.

The proposed 2.5 mill increase to property taxes for 20 years would provide extra support for parks, according to a news release Tuesday.

If approved, the average Rockford homeowner would pay about $243 annually – about $20 a month – with more than $640,000 annually benefitting parks and recreation.

Funds would be used:

  • To add one full-time employee focused on parks
  • For general maintenance and operation, such as buying gas and mulch, repairing lawn mowing equipment, cleaning and sealing decks and trails, power washing, repairing asphalt trails and related activities
  • To replace and upgrade playground equipment, picnic tables and benches, sidewalks, lighting, canoe and kayak launches and more
  • On capital improvements to add a splash pad, ice skating rink, outdoor fireplace and more, completing the Garden Club Park master plan and taking steps toward the Memorial Park master plan

If approved, the millage would also enable Rockford to utilize general funds to make “badly needed” repairs on roads throughout the city rather than funding park maintenance, according to the city.

“The global pandemic highlighted the importance of parks and trails for our residents, who utilized our outdoor spaces more than ever last year,” City Manager Thad Beard said. “The pandemic also underscored how much our parks and trails are in need of repair. In addition to routine maintenance, our list of repair or replace needs is long – and getting longer.

“While we are fortunate to have the extensive park system we do, the legacy costs to maintain our system have outpaced our budget. Rockford has been successful in securing state grants and private donations to supplement tax dollars – and we will continue to do so. But the current funds available do not cover our costs for operations and maintenance, let alone replacement, upgrades or new capital improvements.”

If the millage is approved:

  • About $425,000 will be used annually on operations and maintenance
  • About $100,000 will be used annually on replacements and upgrades
  • About $115,000 from the millage annually on bond payments to defray the costs of capital investments

Beard says the proposed millage would both increase the level of service and maintenance for parks as well as free up funds for road improvements.

“The current funding situation has forced city leaders to choose between maintenance projects and improvement projects – when both are necessary,” Beard said. “If voters do not support the millage, Rockford will be forced to make further cuts to its parks and trails funding, such as delaying repairs, removing failing playground equipment, closing some parks and perhaps selling others. We hope voters will carefully consider the matter when they cast their ballots this fall.”