CITY OF JANESVILLE REFERENDUM - QUESTION 1
"Under state law, the increase in the levy of the City of Janesville for the tax to be imposed for the next fiscal year (2015) is limited to .908%, which results in a levy of $29,712,286. Shall the City of Janesville be allowed to exceed this limit and increase the levy for the next fiscal year (2015), by a total of 4.039%, which results in a levy of $30,912,286? If this referendum is approved, the amount of approved increase in the levy will be available to the City only through the year 2019." Yes _____ N_____
If you want to get informed with correct information about Janesville's tax hike referendum or the local citizens two referenda that were left helplessly dangling by the Janesville city council, you've come to the right place.
It's very unfortunate that the city council approved "reframing" the language in their own so-called "street repair" referendum (NOT the citizens referenda) that basically insults local taxpayers. Yet once again, it's the Janesville Gazette newspaper that not only repeatedly goes along with the city's ill-advised narrative, but doubles down on both the insult and the errors.
JG Editorial Excerpt:
(Titled: City's critics should get informed, do better)
Many people also don't understand that the state limits how much the city can increase its tax levy each year. The amount is based on the percentage increase in value from new construction. That has led to tax increases in the 1 percent to 2 percent range for recent budgets in Janesville. That's hardly frivolous and barely keeps up with inflation.
The problem with the above statement is that the "state" the Gazette editorial is referring to, and the limits they seem to be complaining about were newly imposed on local governments by their endorsed governor, Scott Walker, and state republicans Act 10 law. Before Walker, local elected officials were able to control their own costs and levies without central state power intervention. If the newspaper has a problem with that, they should take it up with their endorsed governor or join the effort to replace him.
OR embrace the suck.
JG editorial excerpt: One way around that limit is to borrow for major projects. The state allows cities to exceed levy limits to pay off debt.
That's only half true. Walker and company did not take away local officials power to borrow, so the city can borrow for major projects. Essentially, the state says local officials can exceed levy limits without asking voters, but only using borrowed money - WITH DEBT.
For instance, the Janesville city council could borrow a billion dollars tomorrow if they so choose, providing they found a lender and were able to pay it back without raising taxes. NO STATE PERMISSION OR REFERENDUM IS REQUIRED.
However, (returning to Act 10 restrictions) the only way Walker and company will now allow local communities to raise the tax levy (revenue) beyond the increase in value from new construction is through referendum.
JG editorial excerpt: That's why the city council last month approved a plan to ask residents in November if they support borrowing $1.2 million a year for five years to catch up on street maintenance.
Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! That's a completely false statement on two counts.
One, the city council is NOT asking residents to borrow. Period. The word "borrow" or any terms related to borrowing activity does not appear anywhere in the referendum question. The city council is asking residents to approve raising the property tax levy by 4.039%. Those are the facts. Remember, the city is not required to go to referendum to borrow - only to tax.
Two. The referendum is NOT about "street maintenance." Again, the referendum question contains NO language about streets or maintenance, nor does it imply the additional money will be used exclusively for streets. Because it is a binding referendum, the city is bound only by the language set forth in the referendum. That means the city is asking voters to approve taxing property owners above state imposed levy limits on the city's budget by $1.2 million a year for the next five years. That's it. Period.
The city could spend the extra money on administration raises or new vehicles - or on anything including road repair.
Despite multiple stories and editorials from the Gazette about Janesville's referendum being a question to approve street repair, spending or borrowing - the referendum is about none of that.
Now, perhaps that is the message city officials want to send to taxpayers and voters, but it is wrong and misleading AND in truth, was incumbent upon the Janesville Gazette to set the record straight. Instead, the newspaper helps the city misinform voters and ridicules those who question the misleaders.