Fees increased, services reduced in proposed budget

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November 9, 2013

JANESVILLE--The 2014 Janesville city budget includes several new fees and reductions in services as state levy caps continue to limit taxing increases.

As the council puts the finishing touches on the budget, the first of two public hearings will be Monday, and a second on Monday, Nov. 25.

The budget includes an increase of about $21 in the city portion of property taxes for the owner of the average home assessed at $120,100.

But fees add:

-- $37.90 per year per household for garbage collection.

-- $1 per visit or $5 per season pass for admission to the Palmer Park Wading Pool.

-- $6 per day or a $30 per season to use the boat launches.

Several council members asked acting City Manager Jay Winzenz to find an additional $31,500 in cuts so that amount could be directed to the Janesville Area Convention and Visitor's Bureau. That shift would increase the bureau's portion of the room tax to 47.5 percent. The city gets the rest.

To find the money, Winzenz suggested reducing the number of downtown street terraces crews clear of piled snow.

Winzenz said the 2014 budget maintains services while addressing long-term concerns about how the city balances its budget by reducing a reliance on reserves and eliminating use of one-time revenue.

Also on Monday, the council is expected to discuss how it will raise the $6 million it needs to accelerate street repair over the next three years.

The money could come from an increase in the $10 wheel tax, borrowing, use of reserves, or a combination of the above. The council opted not to take the money from the general fund because severe reductions would be needed.

“We don't have enough money through the tax levy to be able to fund everything at its current levels,” Winzenz said.

The state limits to the value of new construction the amount of property taxes the city can raise to pay for city operations through the general fund.

“We either generate revenue through other types of users fees, like the wading pool or boat launch fee, or we reduce services, like the proposals to reduce lap swimming or downtown snow removal,” Winzenz said.

The increase in general fund operations is 0.77 percent, or $163,978. The state does not cap debt payments.

The 2014 proposed city and library budgets include an increase of $2,412 in total expenditures, or 0.01 percent.

The increase in the tax levy, including TIF, is $732,202, or 2.39 percent.

The proposed budget:

-- Includes $8,000 to operate a splash pad in Riverside Park. The city would close the wading pool for a savings of $20,151. The money to build the splash pad would be borrowed.

-- Reflects $128,819 in cuts that were made after the budget was published and the city was informed it would get that much less from the state Department of Transportation. Reductions made that will affect residents include elimination of night lap swimming for a savings of $11,271 and the lifeguard at Rockport Wading Pool for a savings of $4,100.

-- Beautifies a median. Councilman Matt Kealy suggested the city partner with private groups to plant flowers on medians in summer, but the initial cost was $5,000 for two medians. The council found $2,500 for one median.

-- Includes a fee to use the Palmer Park Wading Pool estimated to raise about $12,500.

-- Finds some savings in overtime because of a change in work conditions made possible by the passage of Act 10, which eliminated the union's ability to negotiate working conditions. The city instituted flexible work hours so parks employees working weekends, for example, get paid the regular rate and then adjust their schedules so they don't work more than 40 hours a week. Employees plowing snow will no longer get overtime until they have worked eight hours. Previously, employees received overtime for any hours worked outside the regular work day whether they had already worked eight hours or not.

Those savings were partially offset by salary increases city wide ranging from 2 percent to 5 percent.

-- Sets new boat launch fees to raise revenue of $7,000.

-- Hires an associate planner in June at a cost of $37,917.

Winzenz said he opted to recommend reducing snow removal by using a “priority budgeting tool.” The council had previously ranked services and programs by importance. The snow hauling was the lowest-priority service where meaningful budget savings could be made, he said.

The city now hauls snow that piles up on narrow terraces downtown to Dawson Fields so patrons can better navigate sidewalks and park on streets.

Winzenz recommends reducing the area in which snow is removed by about half.

Snow would be removed from the bridges, Milwaukee Street from Parker Place to South Academy Street, South and North Parker drives from East Court Street to Pease Court; and North and South Main streets from Pease Court to St. Lawrence Ave.

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