JANESVILLE, Wis. - Bumpy roads and broken pavement have become the new normal for the city of Janesville. But with 300 miles of roadways and 10 percent of them in failing condition, city officials say it's time for a change.
"The citizens have asked that the streets be addressed. Yes, we do spend money every year through our operating budget and our borrowing, but the pace that we are keeping up with, the streets are falling behind," said Tim Allen, city finance director.
City funds only allow for repair of 6 miles of roadway each year. The city is now looking to double that number. Residents will have the chance to vote on a $1.2 million annual referendum in November.
Allen said because of state-imposed levy limits, more cities are looking at citizens for additional funding.
"You are starting to see more cities within the state go to referendums to get more money approved by citizens to be able to spend on projects we want to see done. I think you are going to see more of that because of those limits," Allen said. "With the levy limits imposed on us by the state legislature, we can't spend at the rates which we used to, so we have had to cut back on the number of roads that do get resurfaced."
If approved, the referendum would increase city taxes by $36.82 next year for a homeowner with a $120,000 home. Allen said an increase in the cost of road materials and limited funding has made it difficult to meet road repair needs.
However, city residents have mixed feelings on reaching for their pocketbooks for more cash.
"That's what I thought the $10 wheel tax was for. I thought that was to help them with the gap where they didn't have the money for the funding for the roads. The city buys things I don't agree with and spends money elsewhere. I don't know that asking us to pay more money is at this point what they need to do," Janesville resident Kimberly Thobe said.
Janesville drivers have been paying a $10 wheel tax since 2012, providing $550,000 toward road maintenance. However, city officials said that's not enough to cover repairing 10 to 12 roads each year.
Despite the possible tax increase, other residents believe the cost outweighs the consequences of continuing to let the roads deteriorate.
"That's still cheap to have good roads. Have the front end of your car fixed up one time, you'll see how cheap the $36 was," resident Francis Buggs said.
If passed, the referendum would allow for 60 miles of street repairs over the next five years. Originally, the city had suggested a 10-year referendum. Council cut the time in half in hopes of gaining more support from voters.
Allen said at the end of the five years, the city would look at proposing another five-year referendum to cover additional repair costs.
"Hopefully, as they said, we will be able to see some improvement by then and then we will go back to the citizens and see: Do they like the results and (want to) continue with that another five or so years? Or do we scrap i?," he said.
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