Janesville looks to raise fees again

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Jake Magee
Saturday, July 8, 2017

JANESVILLE—Months after the Janesville City Council raised dozens of fees to balance the 2017 budget, the city is considering doing it again.

City staff has proposed fee increases in several departments. Doing so would bring in an estimated $237,000 in extra revenue, according to a memo to the city council.

The suggested fee increases aren't a response to an expected budget shortfall but the result of a comprehensive look at what the city charges for various programs and services and how they relate to peer communities and inflation, said Max Gagin, assistant to the city manager.

“The recommendations would certainly help our budget in 2018, but it's not necessarily a driving factor to closing a budget deficit,” he said.

If approved, the biggest revenue jump would come from the Janesville Fire Department. Fee increases from the department alone would bring in an estimated $200,000.

Ambulance service fees would increase $100. Right now, Janesville charges $720 to $1,080 for ambulance service. Under the proposed fee increase, those numbers would rise to between $820 and $1,180.

The increase would bring Janesville's ambulance service charge closer to the average of peer cities. Janesville would still charge less than Beloit, whose ambulance services run between $653 and $1,428, Gagin said.

The Janesville Fire Department also would negotiate fee increases with surrounding towns for rural fire and emergency medical services. Hazardous materials response, facility use, special event coverage, prairie burn and fire extinguisher training fees would increase to completely cover the costs of those services and programs, according to the memo.

Act 20 requires municipalities that increase fire protection service fees reduce their levy limits by the amount of the increase. To avoid decreasing the levy limit, Janesville isn't recommending any fire protection service fee increases, according to the memo.

Other proposed fee increases include:

-- Rockport Pool admission would increase 25 cents for daily entrance and $10 for family passes. Ice arena public skate fees would rise 50 cents. Youth camp fees would increase to match peer communities' fees.

-- License fees for pool tables, fireworks displays and bike registrations would increase to cover the cost of issuing them. A late fee for license renewals also would be implemented.

-- Rental fees for the city's most popular pavilions would increase $5.

-- Oak Hill Cemetery fees would rise to better recover costs and reduce the cemetery's perpetual care fund balance for operating expenses.

-- Re-inspection fees would climb from $100 to the average hourly rate of a city inspector plus $100.

Last year, the city recommended the council approve dozens of fee increases to help reduce an almost $1 million shortfall. The proposed fee increases were expected to bring in an extra $192,000.

It was the first time in at least 10 years Janesville had taken a comprehensive look at its fees and compared them to peer communities, cost of service and inflation, Gagin said.

“Going through the budget, there were many fees that hadn't been increased for 10, 15 years, and the costs of providing those programs and services increases over time,” Gagin said. “The fees just weren't keeping up.”

It's a practice the city will repeat each summer, he said.

The council approved the 2017 budget, fee increases included, in December.

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