City of Janesville projecting 2020 budget surplus thanks to hiring freeze, revenue changes

Despite the economic turmoil of COVID-19, the City of Janesville is projecting its general fund budget to finish 2020 in the black.

Finance Director Max Gagin said their most recent quarterly projection had the city finishing the year with a roughly $488,000 surplus.

At the end of April, the city was projecting to lose close to $250,000 a month for the rest of the year and finish 2020 with as much as a $2 million deficit.

Gagin said the turnaround was due to some of the city’s revenues rebounding better than expected, along with cost-saving measures implemented on May 1.

City Manager Mark Freitag credited his staff with helping to come up with ways to reduce expenses while still providing the city’s most vital services.

He implemented a temporary hiring freeze, which meant no seasonal employees were added for the summer. The city’s parks and recreation departments and operations division had to function with just their organic staff.

“We’re operating in a different environment with some limited resources,” Freitag said. “Trying to do the best we can, but whether the park is mowed as often as you would like it to be mowed… not going to happen this year, but we’re certainly trying to meet the community’s expectations.”

Freitag is working with his staff to determine where they might start hiring again, given the projected surplus. He suggested the police department might be a place to start, so new officers can start training for the job.

The city council will hold a special meeting Tuesday afternoon to discuss projections and set priorities for the 2021 budget.