Position Statements

Forward Janesville's official position on critical issues

Forward Janesville Supports "Opportunity Zone" Designations for Janesville

Here is a copy of a letter sent to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on March 6, 2018.

We are writing to ask for you to designate two low income census tracts in the City of Janesville—Tract 10 and Tract 14—as Opportunity Zones, as established by the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. 

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act established the Opportunity Zone program, which will spur private investment in designated low-income community census tracts.
  This program will allow taxpayers to defer and reduce otherwise taxable capital gains if such funds are reinvested in qualified businesses or properties located in Opportunity Zones.  Further, the legislation authorizes the creation of Qualified Opportunity Funds that must invest 90 percent of their assets in qualified business property in Qualified Opportunity Zones.  Each state’s governor may designate up to 25 percent of its low-income census tracts as Opportunity Zones; this designation is due to the U.S. Treasury Department by March 21, 2018.

As you know, the 2008 closure of Janesville’s General Motors Assembly Plant was a huge blow to Rock County’s economy.
  However, thanks to proactive public and private sector action and considerable help from the state of Wisconsin, our economy has rallied.  We believe that this Opportunity Zone designation will help complete Rock County’s economic comeback, as it will help with the redevelopment and reuse of the 300-acre GM site, which was recently purchased by Commercial Development Company of St. Louis.

The Opportunity Zone designation will also help the development of Shine Medical Technologies, an innovative startup company that has the potential to be an overnight game changer for Rock County’s economy.
  Shine will soon begin construction of a permanent facility on Janesville’s south side, and an Opportunity Zone designation would almost certainly help accelerate the process, which would lead to the creation of dozens of high-quality, family supporting jobs.

Again, we urge you to designate Janesville’s Census Tracts 10 and 14 as Opportunity Zones.
  Thank you for your consideration.

Forward Janesville Supports Removal of Monterey Dam

After careful consideration, the Forward Janesville Board of Directors has voted to support the removal of the Monterey Dam on the Rock River.

Removal of the dam will likely lead to changes in the river’s shoreline, particularly near the current Monterey Bay area.  If the dam is removed, we must ensure that the new shoreline area becomes a community asset.  We believe that funds for a first-class shoreline restoration (such as the rendering completed by the city’s consultant, Interfluve) should be in place before the dam is removed.  

Given our ongoing interest in the ARISE downtown redevelopment plan, we also carefully considered projections about changes in the river’s water level after removal.  While it is impossible to know exactly how water levels will change after the dam is removed, we are comfortable with Interfluve’s projections.

While the concerns discussed above are valid and warrant continued discussion, they do not change the fact that removal of the Monterey Dam is the best decision for city.  Removal of the dam will return the river to its natural state; will increase recreation opportunities and river engagement; will improve water quality; and could create a tremendous community asset when the new shoreline emerges.  Removal is also the wisest fiscal decision for the city, as the dam will almost certainly continue to need costly repairs throughout its lifespan.

Therefore, we support removal of the Monterey Dam, and encourage the city council to vote for removal at the March 27, 2017 council meeting.  

Forward Janesville Endorses Milton School Referendums

Forward Janesville has endorsed the School District of Milton’s operating and capital referendums, which will appear on the November 2016 election ballot.

These referendums are designed to address the district’s instructional and facility needs.  The operational referendum, which would allow the district to exceed its state-imposed revenue caps by $2.5 million annually for five years, will ensure that existing quality educational programs for students will be able to continue without cuts.  The $87 million capital referendum, which includes construction of a new high school, will address safety, security and overcrowding in all buildings; will allow the district to achieve ADA compliance in all schools; and will address the district’s aging facilities.  

The estimated tax impact of the operational referendum is $124 for each $100,000 of property value, while the capital referendum will cost $177 per $100,000.  The tax impact of these referendums would be phased in slowly, which will allow taxpayers to adequately prepare for their impact.

One of Forward Janesville’s missions as an organization is to promote local education.  We seriously considered multiple options, including doing nothing, considering a modified referendum in the future, and supporting the referendums that will appear on the ballot on November 8, and we believe that now is the right time to proceed with these long overdue referendums. These initiatives will not only strengthen Rock County’s school infrastructure, but will provide solid footing to educate the workers that area businesses need to grow and prosper.  

While the school district’s enrollment has increased 22 percent over the last 15 years, Milton’s spending per pupil ranks last in the state (424th out of 424).  Every Milton school building with the exception of one (Northside Intermediate) was built in the 1950s or the 1960s.  Making this strategic investment now will save money in the long run, as deferred and delayed maintenance costs will continue to add up.  We encourage voters to boldly invest in the next 50 years of education in Milton—just as the residents of the prior era did. 

Forward Janesville supports these referendums because we support the growth of the entire region. All of the region’s great school districts make Rock County and southern Wisconsin more attractive place to live and work. Great schools are a complement to our organization’s economic development efforts, as quality educational infrastructure is often a key component in business site selection and/or expansion decisions. Upgrading Milton’s school infrastructure will be another arrow in Rock County’s economic development quiver. 

Choosing to raise taxes is never an easy decision, and not one we enter into lightly.  But Forward Janesville believes that these referendums strike a reasonable balance between the long term educational and facility needs of the district and the property tax impact to the community.  Better schools mean stronger communities, and we encourage voters to support both referendum questions on November 8.