Budget, sidewalks on Monday's agenda

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Marcia Nelesen
Saturday, November 23, 2013

JANESVILLE--A longtime council observer suggested people attending Monday's Janesville City Council meeting might want to bring their pajamas.

Public hearings on both the 2014 budget and the 2014 sidewalk program are on the agenda.

The public hearing on the budget is first, so those who want to comment can skip out on the hours of sidewalk testimony expected once again.

Several budget issues might still be discussed among council members Monday, including a suggestion to reduce the number of downtown terraces on which city crews haul away accumulated snow.

The Downtown Development Alliance has come out against the plan, and members have been urged by their leadership to email council members and speak at the meeting.

Acting City Manager Jay Winzenz suggested the cut of $31,500 so the money can instead be given to the Janesville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The council is up against its state cap on the levy, so any additional money allocated  must be funded with a cut elsewhere.

Snow is removed in downtown areas where narrow terraces have limited storage capacity. The snow is loaded onto dump trucks and hauled to the parking lot at Dawson Field.

In its memo to members, the DDA said reducing the number of streets downtown where snow is removed would have a negative effect.

“Our main concerns are safety, economic impact, parking availability,” according to the memo. “It is not consistent with the city's plans to focus on downtown revitalization.”

The council might also decide where it will find $6 million over the next three years to increase street maintenance.

The council cannot raise the money through property taxes without major cuts. That leaves transferring money from reserves, borrowing, increasing the wheel tax or a combination of some or all. Residents already pay an annual $10 wheel tax, and the money goes to improve streets.

The council can opt to borrow the money in the next note issue, which would not affect the 2014 budget. It could also decide at any time to transfer money from reserves.

Any money coming from an increase in the wheel tax, though, takes about four months to arrive.

Lastly, the council still might discuss its decision to reduce evening lap swim, although no swimmers spoke at the first public hearing.

The council decided to continue morning lap swim but eliminate night lap swim as a compromise when members agreed that an annual subsidy of $334 per swimmer was too high. The school district charges $50 an hour to use its pools.

Several people did speak at the first public hearing Nov. 11. One questioned why city workers should get raises when she asserted many in the community are not. Another said the levy should be going down, not up.

Tracy Strain, 1811 Mitchell Street, spoke against a suggested boat launch fee and asked the council to first ask for help from residents to improve the boat landings, possibly by requesting donations.

Some budget numbers include:

--The city tax levy, without TIF, increases $539,080, or 1.8 percent. The increase with TIF is 2.39 percent.

--The city and library budgets have a net increase of $2,412 in total expenditures, or .01 percent.

--The owner of the average home assessed at $120,100 would pay an increase in property taxes for city services of $20.15. per year for city services. That resident would pay $965.89 for city and library services, an increase of 2.13 percent.

--Based on projections of all jurisdictions, the typical Janesville homeowner would pay about $3,008, or an increase of about $40, or 1.34 percent, without state and lottery credits.




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