As the city of Janesville moves deeper into its annual budget planning process, city staff is asking the council to OK a proposal to double the city’s vehicle registration fee, also known as the wheel tax. The goal, officials say, is to help the city pay for street repair costs the city has said are ballooning beyond the city’s ability to borrow.
On Monday, the city will hold a public hearing over a recommendation to boost the wheel tax from $20 per residential vehicle to $40.
City street work has increased in cost 47% since 2017, the city estimates, a jump the city said makes borrowing for road repairs at current levels unsustainable.
The new plan, along with a proposal to charge curb and gutter replacement costs to the city’s stormwater budget, would help the city stick to its goal of finishing about 12 miles of street repairs per year under continued cost increases, the city said.
Road repair costs are expected to climb from $7 million this year to $7.7 million in 2022, the city estimates. Under current funding structures, the city would borrow $5 million for roadwork next year. The new plan would help the city cut down on borrowing to about $1 million a year, the city estimates, which would save the city nearly $100,000 a year in future interest payments.
It would be the second time the city has increased the wheel tax since it was initially adopted at $10 per vehicle in 2011. The last hike to the tax was in 2015.
If the council approves the plan, the new wheel tax would go in effect Jan. 1.
COVID-19 relief funds
Also Monday, Janesville city staff is recommending the city use $4 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to plug a hole in revenue the city says it has lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.
City staff suggested in a memo last week the money could go toward the proposed indoor ice arena and sports complex at Uptown Janesville, housing and a proposed children’s museum.
The $4 million is part of a bigger plan for how the city would spend a total of $11.7 million it is receiving in COVID-19 relief funds.
The $4 million would backfill the bulk of $4.75 million in lost revenue the city reported during the pandemic. According to a city memo, the city has “broad latitude” in how it can use revenue replacement funds, provided the spending “supports government services.”
According to a memo, the city suggests it might be able to allocate “$2 million” of the funding to pay for the proposed, public-private indoor sports complex being planned at the former Sears location at the Janesville mall.
In the memo, the city also tells the council it could use the other $2 million in replaced revenue to go toward efforts to develop more working-class housing and fund part of a children’s museum that is being proposed in Janesville. Staff stopped short of recommending any specific use of the $4 million.
As it had recommended earlier, city staff also is asking the council to OK a plan that would channel $6.6 million of the rescue funds to help pay for replacement of various lead water services and replacement of water mains at Center Avenue and Court Street over the next two to three years.
Kwik Trip liquor license
City staff plans to ask the city council Monday to revive discussions over an earlier request by Kwik Trip for a liquor license at a proposed gas station at 1030 N. Wright Road
The request has been on ice since May when a deadlocked city council moved to table the request. City staff is again asking the council to disregard a recommendation by the city’s Alcohol License Advisory Committee to decline the request.
Some council members, including Paul Williams, Susan Johnson and Michael Jackson, had dug in against the request in May, arguing that the city should not hand out more liquor licenses.
The licensing committee prior to the May council meeting had recommended declining Kwik Trip’s request. The panel said the request was premature because Kwik Trip initially planned to build the new station sometime in 2023, almost two years after its liquor license request.
Kwik Trip is trying to buy the Wright Road property and wants a liquor license lined up for when it would break ground on the store. Kwik Trip has offered to speed up its timeline and build the store sometime next year, city planning and economic development officials have said.
The Wright Road parcel is less than a mile east of a new gas station and convenience store Kwik Trip completed earlier this year at 2822 E. Milwaukee St.
Shortly after that location opened, Kwik Trip removed gas pumps and shuttered a small-format convenience store at a Stop-N-Go station that Kwik Trip had bought last year about a quarter-mile west of the new East Milwaukee Street shop.
Kwik Trip’s new store along Highway 14 near Target, about a quarter-mile from an existing Kwik Trip store on Milton Avenue, opens Thursday.