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Janesville services could see big budget cuts

Published On: Jan 30 2013 03:16:13 PM CST   Updated On: Jan 17 2013 07:22:07 PM CST

JANESVILLE, Wis. -

Janesville residents won't see a referendum on their April ballot looking to raise taxes for police and fire service.

With a referendum off the table, there's still a growing concern over the city's public safety funding.

Sam Liebert, a Janesville councilman, said the next city budget could mean massive cuts to fire, police and street services.

"Folks shouldn't be surprised if they hit more pot holes when they're driving or the police and fire may take a little bit longer next year, depending on which services we have to cut," Liebert said. "We should be paving about 14 miles a year to keep up general maintenance. This current year for 2013, we're doing about six (miles). Last year, we did about four (miles), so we're very far behind."

Liebert and another councilman suggested putting a referendum on the April ballot asking voters for $2.5 million, but the proposal was voted down.

"The council wants to start addressing some of those concerns earlier, so we're trying to put together a strategy right now," said Janesville City Manager Eric Levitt.

Levitt said revenue has gone down about $1 million over the past five years, and the cost for fire and police service has gone up the same amount.

He said the union contracts the city recently settled should net the city some savings.

"Those contracts netted about a 1 percent increase over a three-year period, which is a very good compromise on both parties. With that in place, that does take some pressure off the budget going into 2014, but we still have some issues," Levitt said.

Liebert said continuing to borrow from the city's reserves isn't the answer.

"In my opinion, I don't think there is anything left to cut. Two-thirds of our operating budget is public safety; the other third is everything else," Liebert said.

City leaders are currently in preliminary discussions. They will begin their line-by-line evaluation of the 2014 Janesville budget sometime this summer.

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