While the Janesville Gazette and establishment social media operations continue to pepper the Janesville conscience with negative stories on the school district and other "look squirrel" diversions, their deliberate silence on the city's projected budget deficit including a special TIF District that will funnel about $1.5 million a year (for the next 27 years) in future tax revenue away from General Fund obligations, borders on conspiracy.
As described in a previous blog posting, city budget deficits for Janesville will occur more regularly once the city council rubber stamps a new downtown TIF District that in effect will remove about $100 million in future taxable assessed values from participating in the city's mounting general fund obligations.
Those resources will instead be handed over to enrich Scott Walker's local donor-class supper club, the downtown membership cartel of Forward Janesville. Their program is named, "ARISE."
The story actually began with Mark Freitag, the Janesville City Manager appointed unironically by a Forward Janesville top heavy committee, claiming in his state-of-the-city address that Janesville can expect a $800,000 shortfall to begin the 2017 budget. During his speech he emphasized the urgency to fix the projected deficit and asked the public to join him in immediate discussions. He warned that solutions could be very, very painful for the city.
After his speech, some local officials stated that the city is already running tight while others said cuts in state shared revenue are responsible for the city manager's deficit projection ...
City officials have long been frustrated by the way the state government controls some its revenue streams.
State shared revenue formulas award Janesville $5.12 million annually, which is about $5 million less than the average amount given to 15 other Wisconsin cities of comparable size. A cap on increasing property taxes and a ban on municipalities implementing a sales tax also limits options.
That "cap and cut" narrative however places blame squarely on the state and the gerrymandered GOP majority in control including Forward Janesville's golden boy, Scott Walker. The thing is, placing blame on red-state policies is a no-no among Janesville establishment power brokers.
The very next day, the city manager squashed placing any blame on the state for the city's deficit by instead pointing the blame, believe it or not, on ...unions!
That's right. Unions! Freitag, who received a 5% raise a year and a half ago, said pay raises of one and two percent negotiated in union contracts are what's driving the city's projected budget deficit.
At that point, someone probably told Freitag to stop digging ...
...because in the works was Forward Janesville's downtown "ARISE" plan and that's where part two of this story begins.
Besides cranking up the heat on an already simmering pot, his counter-strike appeared to pre-empt opposition to Forward Janesville's agenda of funding their pet project with taxpayer money. But throwing unions under the bus for the deficit also indirectly placed blame back on the city council AND on the city's much ballyhooed TIF-District fueled sprawl-based growth agenda.
And on that he's half right.
Because it is the city council who ultimately approved of Freitag's raise AND city employees' raises. They did so knowing the growing pressure Walker's "cap and cut" policy is having on the city's budget AND the inability of the city's TIF-District fueled tax-growth plans to return enough revenue to cover for basic operations and minimal raises.
Next week Monday however, priorities will be very different again as the Janesville city council and Freitag are expected to ignore all of the above and all of their own warnings when they rubber stamp Forward Janesville's downtown TIF District.
The added irony here is Janesville taxpayers will be forced to referendum to make up for the lost revenue along with future annual budget deficits OR make large cuts in city services while insiders with the right connections can readily find the money for their pet projects - no referendum required.
Another city hall story swept under the rug revolves around a recent audit report from the state’s WEDC agency showing Grainger in Janesville failed to create the 130 jobs necessary to qualify for state tax credits. The state is attempting to claw back $50k worth in claimed tax credits from Grainger.
During that same time, the City of Janesville also gave Grainger a $227,500 cash loan forgivable on the creation of those 130 jobs. But so far, city administration officials and their media enablers have not answered questions or outlined their plans to claw back the money given to Grainger.
In fact, Janesville's link to the state audit and the city's cash "incentive" to Grainger for the jobs is not even acknowledged to exist.