Janesville City Council struggles with budget
JANESVILLE At press time Thursday, Janesville City Council members still hadn't made the "hard decisions" and were struggling after four hours of discussion to find ways to squeeze $400,000 into a budget that only had $11,000 wiggle room.
City Manager Eric Levitt had suggested freezing a police officer position, the second freeze in two years. Last year, he also left a crime prevention specialist job unfilled.
But led by DuWayne Severson, four council members went on a spending spree, insisting on replacing those police officers and the crime prevention specialist. Supporting the additions were Russ Steeber, Sam Liebert and Jim Farrell.
Severson said he also wanted to consider a third police officer.
Deb Dongarra-Adams, Kathy Voskuil and Matt Kealy said they could not support the additions, although they might have considered replacing one police officer.
Four hours later, Liebert made the motion to remove the crime prevention specialist from the budget when the hard reality seemed to hit some of the members that the money just wasn't there.
The fate of the two police officer positions, additional money for the convention bureau and more money for street repaving were unknown.
The council had $11,000 to work with because of state levy limits.
The council's only options were to cut or use city reserves. The budget already uses $840,000 from reserves.
Severson suggested various options, such as a 1 percent cut across the board or looking at budget numbers that ended in "zero," suggesting the numbers might not have been scrutinized. He also questioned the snow removal budget.
Voskuil and Dongarra-Adams were clearly frustrated.
Voskuil said Levitt had presented a thoughtful budget that preserved core services without raising taxes.
Dongarra-Adams said she refused to cut anything from the non-public safety budgets because they had taken enough of their share of cuts. Public safety—fire and police—comprise almost 60 percent of the general fund budget, or about $26 million. The remaining departments, such as recreation, comprise about $11 million.
"I think it's fundamentally unfair to make $11 million of the budget make up for $26 million of the budget," Levitt said.
All personnel are feeling stress because of recent staff reductions, he said, adding he would risk losing workers if he cut more positions.
Levitt said 1 percent from non-public safety budgets would yield $110,000 to $130,000, a quarter of the $400,000 council members wanted to add.
"It's the majority of our budget," Kealy said of public safety. "If you're going to do reductions, the majority of your budget is going to have to be touched."
Morale would be terrible in those departments where positions have been frozen for years while public safety departments get additional personnel, Dongarra-Adams said.
Other council members also suggested increasing fees.
The council did agree to allow beer at Dawson Ball Fields during ball games for an increase of $5,000.
A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 12.