Residents will have their final chance Monday to comment on a proposed budget that has elicited impassioned debate.
The Janesville City Council on Monday will hold its second public hearing and take action on the 2018 proposed budget. The council likely will approve the budget after the hearing.
The budget includes a $63,000 deficit after the council recently moved some money around.
Since staff in August recommended trimming half the amount the city spends on animal control, the council, city administrators, Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin employees and residents have discussed the topic at length.
The city originally wanted to cut animal control spending from $125,000 to $62,500, which would have allowed enough room in the budget to hire an additional police officer.
That didn’t sit well with the humane society, which since 2014 has had an annual $125,000 contract with the city to take care of stray animals that are turned over to the society.
Not long after that proposal, the city learned it would get in 2018 an additional $583,000 from the state after years of saying that the state-shared revenue formula unfairly disadvantages Janesville. That money will be used, among other things, to hire police officers.
Still, the proposed animal control services cut remained.
City officials tried negotiating with the humane society for a cheaper contract, but the humane society indicated it wasn’t interested in providing less service.
In the meantime, residents and humane society employees implored city officials to reinstate the $125,000 contract.
During an October budget study session, the council voted to return the $62,500 back to the animal control budget, raising it to the original $125,000.
Councilman Jens Jorgensen, who made the motion, said he intended for the money to be used to contract with the humane society, but that’s not necessarily going to happen.
The council can choose how much money is set aside for different services, but it doesn’t control who the city contracts with. City officials issued a request for proposals for animal control services to see if other organizations could perform animal control services for less than $125,000.
Proposals will be accepted through Dec. 4, after which the city will choose one.
In the meantime, the humane society—which many council members said will end up with the contract after all—has paused its budgeting process until the decision is made, Executive Director Brett Frazier said.
Deciding to allocate the full $125,000 toward animal control and other minor expenses caused a $63,000 deficit in the budget. The council has spent hours trying to find ways to balance the budget but has come up short, opting to approve the budget with the deficit.