JANESVILLE, Wis. - The city of Janesville has provided the community with a space to drop unwanted items at the city's only landfill since the 1950s. But with the landfill's growing debt, soon residents may have to go elsewhere to drop off their garbage.
"Without a landfill here in Janesville, we are in a situation where we have to transfer our waste. So we are paying for the cost to transport waste to another landfill," Janesville Operations Director John Whitcomb said.
The city's decision on whether or not to keep the landfill running is not its only problem. Whitcomb said there is a separate issue the city will have to address.
"Whether the landfill stays open or closed, there is a debt service that still has to get paid," he said. "And if the landfill closes, there (are) no other services to pay for that."
The sanitation fund is expected to be $223,173 in debt by the end of the year. Whitcomb is proposing council shift the landfill debt payments to the city's general fund balance to allow more flexibility.
"That really addresses the issue of the sanitation fund as a whole," Whitcomb said. "It has really been a looming problem that's been deferred since back in 2009."
The sanitation fund balance has significantly decreased over past six years. In 2008, the fund balance was at $3.7 million. Last year the fund decreased to $285,000. Whitcomb said funds for the landfill fell under a larger city budget for sanitation and were reallocated to offset total cost to taxpayers.
"The revenue that was collected up front for these cost(s) was used to offset other cost and keep those cost(s) down. It was just delaying the inevitable and its come home to roost," Whitcomb said.
It would cost the average resident in the city $28 extra in taxes in 2015 if the city moved forward with Whitcomb's proposal. However, the same amount of money would be charged to taxpayers if the city chooses to close the landfill.
According to Whitcomb, both potential fees are expected to fluctuate in price throughout the next several years until the debit has been reconciled.
Regardless of what the council decides, both Whitcomb and the council -- including President Duwayne Severson -- agree there will be a risk involved.
"We don't know what's going to happen. We have to take the best information that the city is providing us and make decisions moving forward," Severson said.
Severson said it's an issue the council will have to watch closely.
"We have to monitor it every year just to see where we are at so we don't get into these situations where we are kind of in a crisis," he said.
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