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Thursday, September 09, 2021

Failed City Hall Hustles Three Card Monte To Scam Residents Yet Again.

Here it comes again bay bay!!

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me again ...oh never mind.

The last street hustle Janesville residents fell for, the $3M water main charge city hall operators shifted from property tax billing to utility billing while leaving the property tax levy draw intact, worked so well they may as well do it again.

This time they're shifting curb and gutter property tax obligations to the utility and doubling the wheel tax. Much like the water main scam, what is left behind in property tax collections is the prize they seek.

Right now, residents are paying ($20 annual) $1M wheel tax + $700K PROPERTY TAX curb/gutter + $700K UTILITY curb/gutter = $2.4M cash. Round figures. That doesn't include what the city gets from state, federal dollars or bonding.

If approved, residents will pay a doubled ($40 annual) $2M wheel tax + $1.4M utility curb/gutter = $3.4M cash. Of note is that residents won't pay more for curb and gutter for now. It's currently 50% property tax and 50% utility. They intend on making the charge 100% utility. So, it's which billing statement curb/gutter is collected from that makes the difference. Again, what this latest scheme leaves behind in property tax coffers is the prize they want.

What is left behind newly unappropriated are property tax collections that previously used to pay a $2.4M bond + the old 50% $700K curb/gutter = $3.1M. There's also $1.7M in debt service they claim we'll save on, but I'll leave that alone for another time.

If they were honest and upfront with residents, they would have to drop the local property tax levy draw from $35M to $31.9M, but they would never ever do that. They didn't decrease the local levy draw $3M last year when they shifted water main collections to utility, so why would they do it now? We paid double for it then and we'll pay double again.

If the scheme is approved, residents will pay $3.4M combined utility fee/wheel tax PLUS $3.1M property tax collections for a whopping $6.5M cash total, but only $3.4M will be numerated for streets/curb/gutter. Again, those figures don't include state, federal or new bonding. The remaining $3.1M in property tax collections becomes a blank unappropriated lottery check they all get to deliberate over at budget time. That's the "emergency" loot they seek.

There was no emergency to fund 12 miles of streets two years ago or now. Our streets aren't going to roll up like a sprung window shade if they don't do this. This isn't about meeting a Jan 1st deadline or road funding. The real emergency is a failed administration desperately trying to find money to fund their annual raises, bonuses, pensions and general payroll needs that their failed growth plan could not and never will deliver. This has been and will be an annual ritual for the foreseeable future with this group.

This should set off alarms once again among residents. Not just about the failed growth plans or the amount of money involved, but about the continued brazen deception and half-truth con game that has become the norm at city hall and our school district in Janesville. Residents are being fleeced. We'd have better luck playing three card monte with a street magician because at least we would win a confidence game or two before the final setup.

Council members or administration officials are always welcome and free to weigh in here or correct any errors. Or at least to set the record straight. I never want to misinform readers. But don't hold your breath.

Note: The exact amount of the annual debt payments budgeted for streets/curb/gutter and paid from the General Fund is not clear. It ranges anywhere from $1.7M to $3.1M. What is clear is city officials claim the doubled wheel tax (cash) and shift to utilities (cash) will replace the annual borrowing note for streets/curb/gutter and "save" the city $2.4M annually.

You can read the other half of the story at the Gazette here if it's not behind a paywall.

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