RSD205’s Amcore building purchase was fiscally responsible

The Rockford Board of Education made the correct decision to purchase the former Amcore building on 7th Street. Their action will save the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars by purchasing a 1983 building worth millions versus being legally required by life/safety mandates to repair a hundred year old building for about the same cost.

The first two floors are being leased by BMO Harris Bank for a total of $1.2 million over four years with an option to extend the term of the lease, plus $250,000 worth of office furniture for $50,000, and less expensive operating and maintenance costs with the newer building.

The building provides twice as much space for the district, including space to accomodate a larger crowd at board meetings to provide community input.

Normally, the REA contract negotiations would have no bearing on capital improvements or purchasing capital assets because debt service or life/safety funds are not transferrable to salaries and benefits.

However, the $1.8M used for the building’s purchase is being taken from the reserve fund which could be spent for REA negotiated issues. This may have prompted two of the negative board votes against the purchase until contract negotiations are resolved.

Since the reserve fund will probably be over $100M after the audit results are presented this month, the building purchase should not be held hostage to unresolved negotiations. The purchase of the building was placing “first things first.”

The building purchase will not add to the deficit, in fact, it should increase the district’s 90 day reserve balance. If the old building is demolished, some school district buildings have sat vacant for years, the district could sell the property or use the space to lease parking spaces to obtain more funds.

As far as any secrecy in consideration of the building’s purchase, the public elects our representatives to the various boards to represent us in these type transactions, especially purchasing property where speculation can raise prices, etc.

This board action serves the needs of the students and the staff because this purchase ultimately will save the district millions of dollars and provide better service for all concerned, including the taxpayers.

Despite the building being removed from the tax rolls and ongoing REA negotiations, demolition considerations, etc., the purchase was the fiscally responsible action to be taken by the Board.