Residents speak out against hiking Janesville school tax

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011
— Five people spoke at the Janesville School Board’s annual budget hearing Tuesday. Four were adamantly opposed to tax hikes.

“Have you ever heard of living within your means or fiscal responsibility?” resident John Gorski asked in angry tones. “We the people are not your open checkbook. We have to live within our means and balance our budgets. Why can’t you?”

The board is facing a $6.1 million deficit for this year’s budget. The law allows the board to increase its tax levy by $3.6 million. If no more spending cuts are made, the board’s only other option is to dip into its fund balance.

The board is expected to make its final decision Tuesday, Oct. 25. The board is split over how much tax and how much fund balance should be used.

Several speakers mentioned the economy, unemployment and residents living on fixed incomes.

“Where will the people come up with the money?” Betty Ellefson asked. “There is enough stress on our households already.”

“They’re not giving me any increases for my Social Security,” retiree Carol Garry said. “We don’t have it. The working people in Janesville don’t have it.”

Taxing to the maximum allowed, as some board members have suggested, is an insult, Al Lembrich said.

“You should be saying cut to the maximum, which has not been done, in my opinion,” Lembrich said.

The board has cut 110 jobs, raised fees and reduced about $9 million in expenses to help balance the budget. The superintendent has said further cuts would be harmful.

Julie Backenkeller said she is for raising taxes but not if the district continues to pay rent when it has space at buildings it owns. The board is locked into leases on two properties where charter schools are housed but has worked to negotiate reductions in rent.

A budget summary was passed out at the meeting, but Chief Financial Officer Keith Pennington noted that the numbers will change before the board’s Oct. 25 meeting.

The board is expected to receive the final state-aid estimate Friday.

In a related item, Pennington said he is working with the board’s bond counsel on the possibility of refinancing two bond issues with lower interest rates. No details were given. A special board meeting might be needed before Oct. 25 to approve the refinancing, Pennington said.

Last updated: 6:45 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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