Easily one of the top local stories for 2016 starts with Janesville city manager, Mark Freitag, back in January when he announced during his state-of-the-city speech that the city will begin the next annual budget with a $800,000 deficit.
During his speech he emphasized the urgency to fix the projected deficit and asked the public to join him in immediate discussions. It created enough of a stir back then to have council members pointing blame at the state on cuts in shared revenue.
The very next day, Freitag squashed those placing blame on the state for the city's deficit by instead pointing at meager city employee raises negotiated by ...unions! Yes he said, their raises are fueling the next deficit. Well that was mighty Forward Janesville of him.
From that point on and all the way into June, talk about the city's deficit fell off a cliff. Why? Because Forward Janesville and their tools in city hall were pushing for a downtown TIF District expected to quarantine $30 million in future tax revenue (no referendum required) away from city treasury coffers for the next 27 years.
As you can probably guess, any plan to skim a million a year off the top back-dropped by talk of projected budget deficits would break the con. So Forward Janesville's media enabler, the Janesville Gazette, made sure the city's projected budget deficit saw as little public discussion as possible over that time.
As predicted by this blog, the city's budget deficit would eventually re-emerge, but only after the city council approved Forward Janesville's downtown TIF District. By early July, Freitag and the council were floating a plethora of city fee hikes – many by 50% to 100% - to fix the deficit. The deficit itself however was reportedly reaching $950,000.
OK, so here we are. According to the most recent story on the budget deficit, they balanced their $950,000 projected deficit with $1,588,000 (apprx.)
The numbers posted in the budget fix story in the Gazette are:
$350,000 higher projected savings from employee retirements.
$200,000 Dollar General permit and survey fees.
$170,000 from increased pet license, pool admission and building permit fees.
$100,000 from schools paying more for in-house police.
$74,000 savings by ending subsidies for Oakhill Cemetery.
$143,000 from increased ambulance emergency fees.
Do the math. Add $551,000 from the General Fund for a grand total of $1,588,000.
Their budget document however opens up the possibility that the $950,000 deficit has now grown to $1,588,000, since it requires that amount to fix it. Got it?
Or, and this is another possibility: That all the fee hikes and "fixes" combined with the general fund cash out exceeds the earlier $950K deficit in order to give Janesville taxpayers the impression that their economic growth policies are working. It's an old budget trick used by right-wing engineers.
It works like this. You sell property or borrow to raise unicorn dollars, (or use reserve cash from the General fund) to pay for the appearance of lower tax rates, THAT in turn re-enforces the meme that your trickle-down growth strategies are working. Because, to exceed the cash required to balance by $600K allows city hall apparatchiks to say this ...
Even though the city would be collecting more taxes, the tax rate would drop because of the city's growth. The tax base is bigger, so “more people are sharing in the pie,” said Max Gagin, assistant to the city manager.
Bingo! I call bingo!
Yeah ...your TIF Districts and dark store challenges are paying off - that's why they require $1.5M in shifts, fee hikes and a substantial cash out to balance. It's because they grew the pie. LOL!
Now, to be fair, none of this has been approved yet ...but it will be. The point here is the city manager should say what the deficit amount is exactly, and explain why his fix proposal does not match it.
RNR - So Predictable. Soon After Downtown TIF District Approval, Janesville Fees Set To ARISE
RNR - Major City Hall Stories Are Swept Under The Rug