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Janesville City Council approves 2008 budget

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Ann Fiore
November 13, 2007
— Mow more grass or keep the Tallman House’s doors open?

For at least a half-hour Monday, the Janesville City Council struggled to wring a few dollars from one department budget to feed another.


In the end, the council made just one change to the 2008 city budget. It subtracted $5,000 earmarked for park mowing and added it to the Tallman House’s annual subsidy.


The historical museum will receive $57,264 in 2008—a 12 percent cut but still a softer blow than the proposed 20 percent trim.


But City Manager Steve Sheiffer repeated his warning that harder times are ahead.


“We’ve got a $362,000 hole” in the 2009 budget, he told the council. “I don’t want anyone to think we’re taking this road today and we’re done. We’re not.”


The $40.6 million budget, which the council approved unanimously, increases by about 3.7 percent over last year. City Manager Steve Sheiffer said the goal was to meet the state’s 3.86 percent tax levy limit without cutting services.


The new numbers differ slightly from previous figures because of a $222,100 increase in state highway aid.


Overall, an average home assessed at $112,700 will pay $21 more for city services in 2008.


City officials project that the typical home will pay $129 more on its total tax bill, not including the lottery credit.


The debate over the Tallman House illustrated how a tight budget forces tough choices.


Council member Paul Williams proposed moving about $13,000 for parks to the Tallman House, but he couldn’t get enough votes to pass an amendment. He eventually agreed to $5,000.


Council President George Brunner, who opposed the move, said he supports the Tallman House.


“But I have difficulty in not going into that neighborhood and making some improvements,” Brunner said of Harmony Grove, a new neighborhood park choked by unmown weeds.


Council member Bill Truman said mowing Lustig Park must be a priority. If the city reduces mowing, he said, it should consider all parks, including those on the east side.


Although the council chamber was full, only four people spoke at Monday’s public budget hearing. Three mentioned the Tallman House.


Patricia Thom, president of the Rock County Historical Society’s board of directors, said she understood the tight budget. But the Tallman House helps sell Janesville to visitors, and its annual subsidy is not a gift.


“The city owns the Tallman House,” she said. The subsidy is “payment for services we provide.”


Council member Russ Steeber asked what the historical society had done to find other revenue sources.


Thom replied that the museum has slashed staffing, hours of operation and utility costs. She said she didn’t know whether the city would alter its subsidy.


“I believe we’ve given them a wake-up call. I hope we have,” Williams said after the vote, referring to the financial challenges at the Tallman House.


Council member Amy Loasching was absent Monday.


JANESVILLE CITY BUDGET

A look at the 2008 Janesville city budget:


Total general fund budget


Next year: $40.6 million


This year: $39.2 million


Increase: 3.7%


Tax levy (TIF and library included)


Next year: $27.4 million


This year: $26.2 million


Increase: 4.5%


Tax rate (with TIF and library)


(Per $1,000 of assessed valuation)


Next year: $8.04


This year: $7.88


Increase: 2.1%


Note: Percent changes calculated on whole numbers.


OTHER BUSINESS

The Janesville City Council on Monday night also:


-- Unanimously passed a $2.9 million tax levy for Hedberg Public Library. The average home assessed at $112,700 will pay $100 for library service in 2008, a decrease of $3.


-- Unanimously approved an ordinance increasing the fee for waste disposal at the sanitary landfill by $2.10 per ton. The fee, which rises from $19.70 to $21.80 per ton, mirrors a fee increase in the state budget.


WHAT’S NEXT

The Janesville City Council will formally adopt the tax levy, which will include the school and lottery credits, when it meets at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 26, at City Hall, 18 N. Jackson St.



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