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Budget would increase trash fee in Janesville

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Marcia Nelesen
October 4, 2012

— An additional $16 for trash collection might be the most noticeable hit to people's pocketbooks if the 2013 city of Janesville budget passes as proposed.

It also would add a forester to help the city deal with the arrival of the emerald ash borer.

City Manager Eric Levitt calls the 2013 budget a "nuts and bolts" budget—one that doesn't add much but doesn't take away too much, either.

"Essentially, we tried to preserve services and keep any fee or tax increases at a minimum," Levitt said.

"There are not a lot of enhanced services. The biggest issues is doing services a different way."

General fund spending of $42.81 million would be an increase of $900,273, or 2.15 percent, from 2012.

The property tax levy would increase $412,436, or 1.52 percent. The owner of the average Janesville home assessed at $120,100 would pay an additional $2.57 in 2013 for city property taxes.

A slight increase in the tax levy is allowed under state law because of new assessed value in the city or new construction. The budget contains a slight increase in debt service, which the state does not cap.

The budget proposal was distributed to council members Wednesday. Study sessions begin next week.

The fee increase for trash collection comes on top of a $40 fee imposed in 2011. The increase proposed for 2013 was predicted by council members who noted the $40 pays only about half the actual cost of garbage collection. They have warned that the utility is exhausting its reserve fund.

The new fee would increase the $10 quarterly bill to $14.

Key aspects of the budget include:

-- Increasing merit pay for non-union employees 1.5 percent. The raise would go into effect in July, meaning half the cost would be included in the 2013 budget. In opening negotiations, the city proposed no wage increases for firefighters and police officers.

Total wages and fringes for all city employees would increase $274,980. That includes police step increases of $127,131, fire step increases of $47,847 and administrative merit pay of $125,000 offset by purchased vacations of $25,000.

-- Using the insurance fund to absorb any health insurance increases. Employees likely would pay higher deductibles and co-pays. The city would use $200,000 of its "healthy" insurance reserve to offset other increases in the budget. Insurance costs have remained flat the last three years, Levitt said.

-- Saving $50,575 as new public safety employees and public works department employees hired after July 2011 contribute to their retirement accounts.

-- Creating an animal control division within the police department. Officials are considering contracting with an agency other than the Rock County Humane Society and building a city-owned holding facility. The society no longer accepts animals that have owners. The city would hire two part-time employees to pick up animals at a cost of $37,449.

-- Delaying filling several positions until Oct. 1, when a new community development director would cost $40,527 and a new deputy fire chief would cost $30,972. The positions have been held open for more than two years. Levitt proposes freezing hiring another police officer, leaving a total of two positions open, and delaying hiring a crime prevention specialist.

-- Transferring $840,000 from the city's fund balance.

-- Filling the position of recreation director for a full year for an additional $16,725.

-- Spending $107,000 to deal with the emerald ash borer, an insect that was found in Janesville earlier this year and kills ash trees unless the trees are treated annually. Experts advise residents to cut down trees before they become too infected, which makes disposal harder. Levitt said the city initially would contract with a forester and buy equipment needed to fell and dispose of trees.

Levitt recommends hiring a private contractor so the city can "see where it goes" before it commits to hiring a full-time employee. State forestry employees have told Janesville officials the city is the only one of its size that does not have a forester.

-- Increasing by about $112,000, or 15 percent, general fund spending for street resurfacing. The council has been concerned that fewer miles are being resurfaced each year. The council also has shifted more of the cost of street resurfacing to borrowing, which means it pays more in interest for what some consider maintenance.

Council members capped the amount that can be borrowed for streets at $950,000. Levitt said the increased emphasis on infrastructure is in line with the wishes of residents who took a survey and put a priority on infrastructure.

-- Setting aside $20,000 for possible economic development consultants or partnerships. Some TIF funds will be used on specific projects, such as the Innovation Center. That, too, is because residents in the survey stressed the importance of economic development, Levitt said.

-- Running the city's three concession stands with city employees rather than contracting it out. Net savings should be about $6,116.



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