Lower taxes, higher fees: Hearing set on '13 city budget
By the numbers
A look at the 2013 budget for the city of Janesville.
Next year $42.895 million
This year $41.905 million
Increase 2.36 percent
Next year $30.665 million
This year $30.403 million
Increase 0.86 percent
(Per $1,000 of assessed valuation)
Next year $7.9014
This year $7.8737
Decrease 0.35 percent
Note: Percent changes calculated on whole numbers.
The 2013 Janesville city budget advances to its first public hearing Monday with a proposed decrease in the tax rate but an increase in fees.
Council members also are expected to discuss whether to reinstate a police officer position—recommended by City Manager Eric Levitt—by dipping deeper into reserves.
The council also wants to allow the convention and visitors bureau to keep more of the city room tax, decreasing city revenue by $35,500.
The proposed budget would use $990,000 of reserves, up from $840,000 initially proposed.
If no changes are made, the general fund, which includes the library budget, would grow by $987,237, or 2.15 percent. The tax levy would rise 0.86 percent.
Only a small increase in the tax levy is allowed under state statutes, which limit the increase to new assessed value or the value of new construction. The budget includes an increase in debt service, which is not restricted by the state revenue cap.
The owner of a home assessed at $120,100 would pay $945 for city services in 2013, down from $949 in 2012.
That doesn't mean residents would pay less for city services. The fee for garbage collection and recycling would increase $16, for example. Water bills would increase about 20 percent, an increase delayed from last year.
To find the money for the police officer, a cost of $63,565, and the convention bureau, a cost of $35,550, Levitt suggests:
-- Using $76,859 in reserves.
-- Decreasing overtime in the assessor's office by $17,206. That is possible because the council opted against a revaluation of property in 2013.
-- Adding $5,000 in revenue by selling beer at Dawson Ball Fields.
Levitt also had to find an additional $220,355 for payments to the Wisconsin Retirement System for firefighters and police officers.
The police rate will increase from 21.5 percent of their salaries to 23 percent in 2013—a cost of $106,942—and rate for firefighters will increase from 23.8 percent of their salaries to 25.6 percent—a cost of $113,413.
To do that, Levitt recommends:
-- Using $73,141 from reserves.
-- Buying one less police vehicle, saving $24,000.
-- Reducing fire overtime by $16,000.
-- Reducing the pot of money available for merit increases for non-union administrators in the fire and police departments to save $21,214. That means merit raises July 1 would range from a zero to 1.25 percent rather than zero to 1.5 percent.
-- Delaying the purchase of equipment, $86,000.
Levitt has called the 2013 budget a "nuts and bolts" budget that doesn't add much but doesn't take away much, either.
It also includes a $16 increase for trash pickup that would show up on residents' utility bills. The new fee would increase quarterly bills from $10 to $14.
Other budget highlights include:
-- Merit pay raises of up to 1.5 percent for non-union employees excluding police and fire administrators. The raises would go into effect in July, meaning half the cost would be included in the 2013 budget. In opening contract negotiations, the city proposed no wage increases for firefighters, police officers and public workers employees.
-- Creating an animal control division within the police department. Officials are considering contracting with an agency other than the Rock County Humane Society and building a city-owned holding facility. The humane society no longer accepts animals that have owners. The city would hire two part-time employees to pick up animals at a cost of $39,318.
-- Filling in October the positions of community development director and deputy fire chief that have been held open for more than two years, and filling the position of recreation director for a full year for an additional $16,725.
-- Spending $107,000 to deal with the emerald ash borer, an insect found in Janesville earlier this year that kills ash trees unless the trees are treated annually. Levitt said the city initially would contract with a forester and buy equipment needed to fell and dispose of trees.
ON THE AGENDA
The Janesville City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Monday in City Hall, 18 N. Jackson Street. A regular informal listening session that usually precedes the first meeting of the month has been canceled.
Items on the agenda include:
-- A public hearing on the 2013 budget. The council will hear public comments and continue the public hearing to Monday, Nov. 26, and then discuss the budget.
-- A public hearing on changes to update ordinances regulating diseased and unsafe trees. The changes are being considered because the emerald ash borer has been found in Janesville, and 33,000 ash trees are expected to die in three to five years. The current and proposed ordinance requires residents to pay to remove trees from their terraces if ordered, even though terraces are city-owned. If the city changes this policy, members would have to figure out how to pay for the cost, City Manager Eric Levitt wrote in a memo. The new ordinance also gives the city forester the power to order residents to remove dead trees on private property. Levitt said he has concerns about this provision and balancing public health and individual property rights.
-- Possible action on recommendations made by the city's sidewalk committee, including changes in financing.