Janesville59.6°

State budget sends Janesville back to drawing board

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Ann Fiore
October 23, 2007
— The budget wrangling might be over at the state level, but it’s just beginning in Janesville.

Thanks to the long-overdue state budget deal reached Friday, local property owners can expect an $8 to $9 increase in their 2008 city taxes, City Manager Steve Sheiffer said Monday.


That’s about half of the $17.70 tax increase that Sheiffer proposed in the 2008 budget he gave city council members last week.


Changes to the state budget mean Sheiffer will have to slice another $300,000 out of the city’s budget, reducing the increase from 3.3 percent to about 1 percent.


And while residents are unlikely to notice service changes in 2008, they’ll certainly notice them in 2009, Sheiffer said.


“I expect in 2009 we will have service cuts,” he told the city council Monday.


Janesville’s proposed budget assumed a 4 percent increase in the tax levy. But the state budget likely to pass the Legislature today limits tax levy increases to 2 percent, according to news reports.


Sheiffer said the levy limit appeared to be more like 2½ percent.


He said state-shared revenue is expected to increase slightly, which will ease Janesville’s budget shortfall.


Police and fire services account for 60 percent of spending when it comes to the tax-supported general fund. Wage and health insurance increases for those public safety employees are driving the city’s budget, Sheiffer said.


The budget also contains money for other mandated items that can’t be cut, such as an upcoming reassessment of city property and the 2008 presidential election.


Beyond that, “there are no promises that anything in the budget now will stay in the budget,” Sheiffer said.


Sheiffer said he will amend his budget in time for the council’s first study session Wednesday.


The levy limit does not affect the city’s ability to borrow for capital projects. That part of the budget includes $1.5 million for property acquisition, $1 million for aquatics facilities, $1 million for relocating Fire Station No. 1 and nearly $1.2 million for landfill maintenance and expansion.


What’s next

The Janesville City Council will review the 2008 proposed budget at as many as three study sessions. They are scheduled at 6 p.m. Wednesday, as well as Tuesday, Oct. 30, and Thursday, Nov. 1.


A public hearing on the budget likely will be held at the Monday, Nov. 12, council meeting. The council usually adopts the budget by its second November meeting, which would be Monday, Nov. 26.


The council will set the tax rate after it adopts the budget.


OTHER BUSINESS

The Janesville City Council on Monday night unanimously:


-- Approved an ordinance annexing about 108 acres at County A and Austin Road on the west side and zoning it for residential development. Neighbors expressed concern about high speed limits, traffic and development. Brad Cantrell, the city’s community development director, said the city could work with the town of Janesville and Rock County to lower the area’s speed limit.


-- Approved acquiring the Westphal & Co. properties at 55-123 St. Mary’s Court and the Energetics property at 821 N. Parker Drive. The properties are part of the city’s plan to redevelop the riverfront.


-- Approved acquiring the environmentally troubled Riverside Plating properties at 1623 Beloit Ave. and 1728 N. Washington St. from Rock County after the county forecloses on the properties.


-- Dissolved two tax incremental financing districts, TIF No. 10 and TIF No. 12, because the city has recovered its project costs. Various taxing entities—the city, library, county, school district and Blackhawk Technical College—will benefit from the additional tax revenue starting next year.


-- Authorized City Manager Steve Sheiffer to apply for state brownfield grants for properties at 821 N. Parker Drive, 210/212 S. Water St., 101 Rockport Road and 803 S. Jackson St. The grants would be used to demolish buildings and conduct environmental assessments.



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