The city of Janesville’s proposed 2021 budget calls for a 2.1% reduction in spending compared to 2020, a move the city manager said is good for the entire community.
The city council was presented the proposed budget for the first time Monday. From here, the council will host workshops and work with city staff to craft a final budget to be approved in December.
City Manager Mark Freitag said city staff was cognizant of the challenges facing the community because of the coronavirus pandemic and wanted to maintain services without significantly increasing costs to residents and taxpayers.
“(City staff) are not tone deaf to what is going on in the community,” Freitag said.
The initial proposal includes no cuts to city jobs, wages or benefits. Freitag said the city should not solve budget shortfalls on the backs of its employees.
The proposed city and library budgets total $110.07 million, a $2.4 million decrease from 2020, according to the budget presentation.
The city’s tax levy—the amount of money collected from residents who pay property taxes—would increase 0.6% from 2020 to total $37.62 million.
That increase is the smallest year-to-year increase in the levy the city has seen since at least 1990, Freitag said.
Wisconsin municipalities are allowed to increase their operating tax levies year over year by the percentage increase of net new construction in the previous year.
New construction in Janesville in 2020 increased by 0.96%, or $312,400, according to the presentation documents.
The budget is balanced despite an earlier estimate in August that the city would face a $710,000 deficit.
Finance Director Max Gagin also prepared the council in August for potential reductions in state aid because of the pandemic. State officials since then have vowed to maintain the amount of aid as dictated by the most recent state budget, saving Janesville’s city council from major cost-saving decisions.
The potential deficit was closed with help from higher revenues and lower expenses than estimated.
Hedberg Pubic Library typically receives a portion of the city’s operating tax levy, but library Director Brian McCormick this year declined the funding so it could be used toward other city expenses.
That gave the city $30,000 it had not anticipated, Freitag said.
Cost of wages and benefits also decreased because of staff turnover, Gagin said.
The average Janesville household would pay about $33.62, or 1.7% more, for all municipal services and programs in 2021, Freitag said, the lowest increase he has seen in his tenure.
Utility fees would increase moderately with the exception of stormwater fees, which would decrease 1.4%.
Freitag said the city was able to keep some hot-button issues, such as funding for the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin and downtown snow removal, off the chopping block this year.
The 2021 budget plan was crafted assuming the senior center and aquatic facilities will fully operate next year, but those assumptions, like everything else, could change depending on the state of the pandemic.
To view the full budget proposal, visit the city’s website.