City Councilor Doug Marklein believes the city’s 2020 budget is “fair” considering the challenges the city faces under state regulations.

The council approved the 2020 budget unanimously Monday night. Other council members echoed Marklein’s comment before they voted.

The budget includes the second smallest tax levy increase in the last 20 years and a steep tax rate decrease. The rate decrease can be credited to last year’s city-wide property revaluation, Finance Director Max Gagin said.

Gagin gave the council examples of complete property tax bills for median-assessed homes within Janesville’s city limits in the Janesville and Milton school districts.

The city’s median assessed home value is $147,600, an increase of 31% from the pre-revaluation median of $112,400.

Tax rates across all taxing entities that cover Janesville will decrease this year with the exception of the Milton School District, which passed a capital referendum in April.

Lower tax rates do not necessarily mean residents will see smaller tax bills, Gagin said.

Janesville residents in the Janesville School District will pay 11.1% more in taxes this year than last, Gagin told the council.

A home assessed in 2019 at $112,400 paid $2,802 in local taxes. This year, that same home, now valued at $147,600 will pay $3,112, a $310 difference.

A Janesville home of median value in the Milton School District last year paid $2,724 and will pay $3,176 this year. That’s $452 more for an increase of 16.6%.

No residents spoke at a public budget hearing during the last council meeting, and the council had few questions for Gagin this week.

The only point of discussion was how to pay for new police squad cars.

The council at its meeting Nov. 11 voted 5-2 to maintain the status quo and pay for new vehicles out of the operating budget.

The vote went against city staff’s recommendation to borrow for squad cars so that operating budget funds could go toward paying for unforeseen expenditures when needed without risking running into state-imposed budget restraints.

On Monday, the council approved an amendment to reverse the previous vote, allowing the city to borrow for new squad cars in 2020.

The new amendment passed 6-1 with Marklein voting against.

Problems budgeting for snow removal led the city to seek more wiggle room in the budget, Gagin said.

In October, the council approved allocating $300,000 for snow removal for the rest of 2019. The city has already used $140,000 of that, Gagin said.

If the city has to spend more than expected on snow removal in early 2020 and does not have room in the budget, the council would have to decide whether to cut snow removal services or to cut from other departments, Gagin said.

The city had used money from the general fund to pay for snow removal overruns, but the city wants to rely less on that money, which it uses as a rainy-day fund, Gagin said.

Borrowing for squad cars is a not a long-term solution unless the city secures additional revenue in the future, Gagin said.