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Muskego opts to fund senior taxi, Jammin' on Janesville

Oct. 1, 2012

Muskego - It was a bumpy ride for Muskego's senior taxi and Jammin' on Janesville as aldermen hammered out a proposed property tax levy for next year.

In the end, funding for both stayed in the recently discussed budget plan, but the Common Council might still make some changes at its Oct. 9 meeting in preparation for a public hearing set for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 22 at City Hall, S8200 Racine Ave.

The 2013 proposed property tax levy is $12 million, an increase of 0.591 percent. It would support a proposed 2013 budget of $17.1 million, which is 0.19 percent more than was budgeted for this year.

Group support?

Despite higher-than-expected revenues, not all activities at least partially funded by the city met with universal approval. Underlying the debate was whether the city should help fund any civic group effort.

That included the senior taxi service as well as the largely business-sponsored summer Jammin' events along Janesville Road.

Discussion for both those budget items centered on two questions: whether the city should create a fund for other groups deemed just as worthy, or whether city should have separate budget line items for the taxi service and Jammin' so that they do not have to depend on residual city funds that eventually might dry up.

"I'm OK with either one," said Alderman Dan Soltysiak, who suggested the fund concept because it seemed to be more fair and "opens it up to a lot of different groups."

For example, at its Sept. 25 meeting, council members heard from Lisa Alberte, owner/operator of Acres of Hope and Aspirations, asking for any help the city could give to her operation, which helps those with brain injuries.

But Alderman Neil Borgman said creating a fund for worthy causes could be a slippery slope, leaving the city in the position of having to choose from among competing requests or granting them all, which it can't do.

Choosing from among causes wouldn't be so bad, said Alderman Rob Glazier, noting that the city makes value judgments all the time. Aldermen will discuss the fund Tuesday.

Servicing the taxis

The city initially gave $5,000 as seed money to the senior taxi service, which mainly takes seniors to medical appointments, with the idea that the service would eventually find its own way, in 2008.

But when fundraising didn't meet expenses, the organization appealed for another $5,000 the next year. The taxi has been back every year since, requesting $5,000 to shore up its $85,000 budget.

Not getting the funding would mean the taxi could no longer get seniors to the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center or to dialysis locations outside Muskego, said senior taxi president James Nichols.

Ironically, the senior taxi was established at the city's request, said former alderman William Schneider. He also noted that Muskego does nothing else for seniors.

Jammin' along?

Jammin' on Janesville, which is planning a third and final year in 2013 for a series of three summer outdoor block parties to help Janesville Road businesses survive the two-year Janesville Road widening, wasn't an easy choice for city funding, either.

The Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce has asked the city to provide $19,000 out of next year's Jammin' budget of $43,000.

Some aldermen wanted data indicating that Jammin' actually helps businesses, though one alderman doubted gathering some information is practical.

"There's no measure to know if there's a return on investment," Soltysiak said.

Tina Weiss, chamber executive director, countered that half the respondents to a survey the chamber took of its members said Jammin' had generated more business. She predicted that in 2014, Jammin' on Janesville would morph into something different that she hoped wouldn't need city funding, anyway.

The budget won't be finalized until after the public has a chance to comment on it at the public hearing.

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