Janesville45.4°

Janesville's operating budget falls

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
October 3, 2009
— The city would collect less trash for free and plow only after bigger snowfalls under a proposed city budget that would cut total operating expenses for the first time in at least a decade.

City Manager Eric Levitt called the proposed reduction in operating expenses “significant.”


The city would cut its operating budget by about $448,000, or 1.2 percent.


The city’s general fund proposed budget—which includes operations and debt service—would be $41.4 million, down $222,087.


To make that happen, Levitt is working with employee unions and asking them to defer until the end of the year a 3 percent pay increase scheduled for January 2010.


Even with pay and service reductions, residents would see their taxes go up because the city has lost so much revenue, Levitt said.


The result is a general fund tax rate increase of 1.3 percent, or $10.26 in additional taxes paid on the average home of $113,800. This year that homeowner paid $800 to the city.


The overall tax rate including library and TIF would be 0.70 percent more than 2009. The city’s share of the average homeowner’s tax bill would increase by $6.47, from $931 to $937.


The city council has scheduled its first budget session at 6 p.m. Thursday in City Hall. For the first time, a budget study session will be televised live on JATV.


The council asked Levitt to prepare a budget that minimizes service reductions, keeps property taxes stable and reduces the use of the reserve fund.


Council members understand that many residents have had their salaries frozen and many others, including council President Bill Truman, have lost their jobs.


The council’s orders were tough to follow in a down economy, Levitt said. Because of drops in state shared revenue, interest earnings and community development permits, the city budget started $830,000 in the hole.


Levitt said he tried to only increase fees for services that residents could choose to use.


“Hopefully, the average resident won’t see an impact,” he said.


Levitt said he approached the budget as a policy document rather than one driven by numbers.


Trash


City staff is considering limiting—perhaps to three or four—the number of trash bags residents could put at the curb for free pickup. Residents would be charged for extra bags, which Levitt hopes would generate $100,000 to $150,000.


Resident could haul their garbage to the landfill for free.


Residents have never paid for trash pickup, but the landfill is taking in fewer tons of trash because of the slowed economy, and it soon could operate at a deficit. The landfill historically has made money is scheduled to contribute $450,000 to the general fund in 2010.


The council must discuss ways to increase revenues, Levitt said. But increasing tipping fees might scare away haulers who already have been hit by a new Wisconsin fee.


Snow removal


Levitt suggests streets be plowed only after at least 3 inches of snow. In the past, plowing has been ordered after 2 to 3 inches. Levitt suggests increasing the snow removal budget by $126,000 because the budget fell short the last two years.


Other suggestions


To help make decisions in paring the budget, Levitt asked every division to submit three reductions and one enhancement.


Suggested changes include:


-- Sharing staff between neighborhood services and community development, where business is down because of the economy.


-- Cutting sports camps duplicated elsewhere, such as girls basketball and pompons.


-- Increasing admission fees at the pool, from $1.50 to $1.75 for adults. The city will ask for donations at the wading pools, hoping to raise about $4,000.


-- Using less of the reserve fund. Levitt plans to apply $850,000 or less from the reserve fund at the end of the year. That compares to $1 million transferred last year. About $6.1 million remains in the reserve fund.


-- Cutting staff training by 12 percent.


-- Freezing employee pay. Some administrative employees still would be eligible for merit pay increases if they were at certain pay scales compared to their pay ranges, and some union employees would be eligible for step increases.


“The unions are very interested in working in the city’s and citizen’s interests but want to make sure they are treated fairly in the process,” Levitt said.


n Reducing the city’s newsletter from four issues to one. A recreation brochure would be reinstituted.


Projects


The budget includes money for three major projects:


-- $500,000 to buy bad property in the inner city neighborhoods.


-- $1.1 million for the ice arena.


-- $1 million for a new central fire station.


“When we started this, there was skepticism that we’d be able to keep taxes somewhat level and use less of the reserve,” Levitt said.


“I think we accomplished that.”


BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS


Among the highlights of the 2010 city budget being proposed by City Manager Eric Levitt are:


Garbage


The number of trash bags residents could put at the curb for free pickup would be limited—perhaps to three or four. Residents would be charged for extra bags but could take their garbage to the landfill for free. City officials believe the system would encourage more people to recycle while raising $100,00 to $150,000. The program would start July 1. Although the city still is working out the details, a sticker system was mentioned.


Snow removal


Streets would be plowed only after at least 3 inches falls. The policy now is 2 to 3 inches.


Police officers


Because the city did not get a state grant, one police officer position would be left vacant. That would reduce the number of police officers from 104 to 103. Janesville lost the grant because its crime rate has dropped when compared to other communities. Hiring to fill a second open position would be delayed until July.


Pay freeze


City Manager Eric Levitt is working with the city’s unions to delay until December 2010 a scheduled 3 percent cost-of-living increase. Some raises still would be given for merit and union step increases.



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