Janesville City Council approves 2018 budget

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Jake Magee
Tuesday, November 28, 2017

JANESVILLE—The city council cleared all but $638 of a more-than $60,000 overage in applied general fund spending before approving the 2018 city budget Monday night.

The budget includes a 4.8 percent increase to the tax rate, from $8.82 to $9.24 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

Owners of an average Janesville home, assessed at $121,400, would pay $1,070.75 toward the city portion of their property tax bill in 2017. For 2018, that amount will rise to $1,121.74.

The budget also includes a 6.8 percent increase to the city's tax levy, which is more than double the 3.3 percent increase from 2016 to 2017.

A municipality can increase its tax levy only by the percent increase of net new construction. Dollar General and other projects have contributed to Janesville's 2018 net new construction increase of 2.73 percent, City Manager Mark Freitag has said.

Going into Monday's meeting, the proposed 2018 budget included spending more than $60,000 more from the city's applied general fund than was spent in 2017 from that fund, which is essentially the city's savings account, said Max Gagin, assistant to the city manager. The city and the council aim to reduce how much money is pulled from the applied general fund each year.

After much discussion, the city council reduced the overage from more than $60,000 to $638. Most of the reduction came from reducing the snow removal budget by $62,500.

There won't be a reduction in snow removal services, but less money has been allocated for them in hopes of a mild winter. Should snow removal go over budget, snow would still be removed, but the city would have to approve a special allocation and pull money from somewhere else in the budget, Freitag said.

Councilman Jens Jorgensen was the sole council member to vote against approving the budget.

By budgeting $638 more from the applied general fund for next year than the city did in 2017, the council isn't meeting its goal of reducing that number annually. As someone who wants to spend his life in Janesville, Jorgensen said it was his generation that would eventually have to pay off deficits.

Originally, the proposed 2018 budget was balanced and achieved the goal of not spending more applied general fund monies than were spent the previous year.

A $62,500 cut to animal control services helped the city strike that balance. The public and the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin protested the cut, and the city and the council voted to put the money back into the city budget, throwing the original balanced budget out of whack and leading to Monday's changes.

Other budget highlights include hiring two additional police officers and three extra firefighters, additional road crack sealing, and reduced Janesville Transit System fees. A variety of other fees were raised to bring in extra revenue.

The council postponed until Jan. 22 a vote on an ordinance that would impose an additional fee on residents looking to recover lost pets. The extra fee would go to the city to help recover the cost of providing animal control services.

The ordinance is estimated to bring in an extra $5,000 in revenue.

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