Other Views: Rumors of Janesville’s fiscal demise exaggerated
Lately, I have heard some comments from a handful of citizens that the “city of Janesville is broke.” The assertion is troubling given that a review of the city’s financial standing suggests otherwise.
When I am out in the community, I see great progress occurring in all areas of Janesville. Through the resilience and hard work of residents, business owners and city staff, Janesville’s equalized assessed property value has grown to $4.17 billion, up from $3.99 billion in 2015. With the new construction in 2015, the city has budgeted to take advantage of approximately $315,000 in new property tax dollars. We anticipate this number will grow in future years due to the many significant private building projects that escalated in the community in 2016.
Since 2013, Standard & Poor’s has awarded our city an “AA” bond rating, the third highest of 20 potential ratings. This outstanding rating confirms our city’s dedication to strong budgets, good reserves, healthy liquidity and well-grounded fiscal and management practices. Standard & Poor’s is confident in Janesville’s ability to meet all of its financial obligations now and in the foreseeable future. This cannot be said for similarly situated cities and is a credit to the city staff and community residents.
Some in the community may be unfamiliar with the city’s ongoing efforts to convince the Legislature to correct what we believe to be unfair state shared revenue distributions and to restore local fiscal control through the removal of or adjustment to strict levy limits. These two state-mandated issues are limiting, but they only present short-term budgetary impediments.
I am proud to say that Janesville, in spite of these challenges, is financially strong. In fact, the robust fiscal prudence of past city councils and administrations compounds these state-imposed roadblocks and their effect on Janesville today. Undeterred by these hurdles, the city continues to have one of the lowest property tax burdens compared to peer communities, with the third lowest tax rate and the fourth lowest property tax per capita among our 14 peer cities.
We are a lean workforce that has exercised meaningful fiscal stewardship for decades. And despite recent budgetary constraints, the city has not made any significant cuts to the many fine programs and services that the city provides daily to residents, businesses and visitors.
Janesville is a great community! I’m proud to serve as your city manager. As our city continues to grow economically and socially, it is vital that we present Janesville in a positive light to our friends and neighbors. The danger is always that the perceptions we create about ourselves may become reality.
It is important to continue attracting new residents, businesses and visitors. I feel the best way to do this is by highlighting our many strengths, including our strong financial standing.
Janesville is not broke. We’re proudly moving forward.
Mark Freitag is the city manager of Janesville.