Janesville56.2°

Council continues to trim budget: Zero percent increase within reach

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
October 30, 2008
— The recent drop in energy costs has brought the Janesville City Council $100,000 closer to its goal of a zero increase in the tax rate.

The council continued Wednesday to whittle the 2009 budget, finding another $78,212 in cuts. That’s in addition to $80,200 last week.


The council will meet again Wednesday, Nov. 12.


Jay Winzenz, acting city manager, told council members Wednesday that since he prepared the budget, the price at the pump has dropped dramatically for “significant cost savings.”


Winzenz’s new estimate for 2009 is an average cost of $3 a gallon for gasoline compared to an earlier estimate of $3.75, and $3.85 for diesel rather than $4.29.


In addition, Winzenz said he spoke with Eric Levitt, the city’s new manager who will start Dec. 15. Levitt recommended the council apply money from the fund balance to get to a zero increase. Levitt said he would identify ways to make the decrease happen the first part of next year.


As he did last week, council member Russ Steeber on Wednesday night again protested most cuts, lecturing the city council that any reductions would impact service.


“I think we all understand that,” council president Amy Loasching said.


“I don’t think there’s a lot of extra wiggle room,” Steeber continued, insisting that the budget the last few years has been “bare bones.”


“Whatever we do tonight, we (need) to do it thoughtfully, keeping in mind there may be an increase in the levy, to some degree … and not just say ‘cut’ just to get to the zero percent,” he said.


The council on Wednesday:


-- Agreed to charge an optional $15 activity fee at the senior center. The senior center board suggested the fee to raise money. Seniors who pay the $15 would qualify for perks. Revenue is estimated at $20,000.


-- Asked Mike Williams, leisure services director, to come back to the council with suggested fee increases for recreational programs. Williams also will suggest ways to cut hours or days at city recreation facilities, such as the wading pools, to save money.


-- Considered keeping Riverside Wading Pool closed.


The council already has set aside $60,000 to reopen the pool, and $34,000 is in the 2009 budget for operating costs.


“I just see it as a want for the city, not a need of the city,” council member Tom McDonald said.


“If we’re talking about dipping into our reserves and borrowing money to make this a balanced budget, to have a pool that’s going to be open for 11 weeks and cost 30-some thousand to operate … isn’t worth it.”


But council member Amy Loasching said the council should reward volunteers who have put in countless hours to restore the park when the city was not willing to spend any money. Reopening the wading pool is all that they have asked for, she said.


Bill Truman said the city is facing mass layoffs, and people are going to need a place for inexpensive recreation. He said he would consider keeping it closed if the city closed the Palmer Park Wading Pool as well.


“We have been approached time and time again about getting this park back to what it was,” Russ Steeber said. “Great efforts were made this last year by the Friends of Riverside … I don’t think we should take and negate everything done this last year by not opening the wading pool.”


The council decided to discuss it again if costs to open the pool total more than $60,000.


-- Cut about $1,300 from the community development department by asking employees to double up in a hotel room while attending a conference.


-- Learned that the transit department combined two routes that pick up school children to save $7,000.


-- Eliminated two issues of the city newsletter to save $18,135.



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