Janesville18.5°

Residents show more support for traditional services: Scorecard

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
September 19, 2010
— Janesville residents who filled out a city “budget scorecard” sent a clear message: A majority prefer a lower level of service in such areas as parks and library services to reduce taxes or hold them steady.

Conversely, a majority of respondents said the city should raise taxes and/or fees to maintain or even increase services for the traditional city services of police, fire, infrastructure maintenance and snow plowing.


A total of 766 residents took the online survey.


The city created the scorecard to give staff and city council members feedback as they compile the 2011 budget. The budget is scheduled to be presented to the council Oct. 11.


City Manager Eric Levitt recently said the council must close an estimated $1 million to $2 million budget gap. Factors producing the deficit include the rising cost of salaries and benefits for employees and a loss in revenue, such as $1 million drop in investment earnings.


Jay Winzenz, assistant city manager who spearheaded the scorecard, had hoped for 2,500 responses. Still, he considered the number of response good, considering it was the city’s first scorecard.


Respondents were asked to choose from four levels of service with a corresponding effect on the respondent’s tax bill. The four levels were:


-- Reduce taxes and service levels.


-- Keep taxes the same with a slight decrease in service levels.


-- Increase taxes to maintain service levels.


-- Increase service levels and taxes.


The survey asked if residents preferred to pay for any increases with property taxes or with fees.


The majority of respondents opted to cut services in the following areas to keep taxes down: library services, open space and parks, garbage collection, recreation facilities and programming, public transportation, property inspections on private property and maintenance of public buildings and facilities.


“Certainly … there appear to be some areas that are perhaps higher priorities than other areas,” Winzenz said.


Sixty-seven percent of respondents who considered law enforcement high priority, for instance, said the city should increase taxes to maintain or increase service levels.


Only 35 percent said the city should increase taxes to maintain or increase service levels for library services. Only 28 percent wanted to see taxes raised to maintain public buildings and facilities.


Winzenz said the survey also could be read as indicating a majority of respondents prefer a slight decrease in current service or the same service level while keeping tax rates the same or increasing taxes.


“In order to continue to provide that same level of service, there has to be some cost increase through additional revenue in user’s fees or additional property taxes or other revenue generators,” Winzenz said.



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