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'Garbage juice' and taxes among issues brought up at city budget hearing

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RACINE — A public hearing on the city’s proposed 2016 budget drew few comments and questions from Racine residents Thursday night, but those who did comment expressed passionate views on garbage and taxes.

Starting at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 730 Washington Ave., aldermen and administration officials gathered to hear input from residents. Four residents approached the podium.

Two of the men had questions about the city’s garbage collection system. One man spoke with concern about garbage trucks leaking “garbage juice” on city streets.

The other man, an employee with the city’s Street Department urged aldermen to approve the $995,000 in capital improvement budget spending needed to start phasing in an automated garbage collection system. The money would be used to pay for 9,000 new garbage carts —one third of total number needed for the new system — and two side-loading garbage trucks.

Carlos Austin, 37, of Racine, said moving to the new system would help save his joints and help prevent injuries among street department workers tasked with collecting garbage and recyclables.

“I have been hurt more times on this job than I have been playing football,” Austin said. “I’m 37-years-old and I feel like I am 47-years-old.”

Two other men who spoke — former aldermanic candidate Jeff Warg and George Meyers — raised concerns about the city’s debt burden and its taxes.

“When the bureaucracy wants something we will find the money for it. When the taxpayers want something we are going to raise your taxes,” said Meyers speaking about the City Council’s recent vote to borrow funds to pay for sidewalk repairs.

The public hearing and meeting adjourned less than 20 minutes after it started, with aldermen opting to save most final questions on the spending plan for their final budget review meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 11.

That’s when the Committee of the Whole is slated to make its recommendation of the spending plan to the full City Council. The City Council is slated to approve the plan on Tuesday, Nov. 17.

The city won’t know what the proposed property tax levy means for a possible 2016 tax rate until the state releases the total assessed value of all taxable properties in the city sometime in December. If property values don’t change, the estimated annual increase on a house valued at $100,000 would be $32.

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