Budget Law & Development

The Law

Wisconsin budget law requires the City of Madison to prepare an annual budget and hold a public hearing.

The budget document should list anticipated revenues from all sources and the proposed appropriations for each city agency. The law also requires the budget to show, for comparative purposes, the actual revenues and expenditures for the preceding year and the estimated revenues and expenditures for the current year based on at least six months of actual experience. The budget document should also show any outstanding indebtedness. State budget law does not further identify the content of the budget, so it is up to the local governing body to determine what information should be presented in the budget document.

Developing a local budget includes estimating expenditures for government services and revenues from various sources. The final factor bringing the budget into balance is the property tax levy, which makes up the difference between total estimated expenditures and total estimated "other revenues" (e.g., state funding, fines, fees and forfeitures). Any change in either expenditures or other revenues will change the amount of the property tax levy.

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Budget Development

The City of Madison divides the budget process into "capital" and "operating" sections. The "capital budget' provides for the acquisition of long-lived assets such as land, buildings and major equipment. The "operating budget" contains items related to salaries, benefits, materials and supplies, purchased services, and short-lived assets such as office equipment.

Each of the two budgets passes through three distinct phases. The "Requested Budget" contains the original requests of the agencies. The "Executive Budget" is the budget as proposed by the Mayor. And finally, the "Adopted Budget" is the budget as approved by the Common Council.

The capital budget passes through two additional stages. Between the Requested and Executive budget phases, the capital budget is first reviewed by the Finance Director, who develops a package of recommendations. Next, the budget is reviewed by a group consisting of the Mayor, Public Works Team Leader, Finance Director, Director of Planning and Community and Economic Development, and other staff as determined by the Mayor. This advisory group assists the Mayor by making recommendations on which projects should be included in the capital budget.

After the Executive Budget is prepared, the Finance Department publishes a summary of the budget in the newspaper of record, a statement as to where a detailed budget is available for public inspection, and a notice as to when and where the public hearing will be held. The public hearing is held at a meeting of the Common Council, and provides an opportunity for any resident or taxpayer to be heard on the proposed budget.

The Mayor's Executive budget is introduced to the Council and referred to the Board of Estimates (the Council's fiscal advisory body). The Board of Estimates reviews and amends the budget, and sends it back to the full Council for consideration.

The final (or "Adopted") budget is adopted by the Common Council as a resolution. This document provides the official authorization for expenditure of the amounts listed in the document, as well as for levying the property tax. The amounts listed in the Adopted Budget cannot be changed unless authorized by the Common Council.

Once the tax levy is established and certified, the total levy is divided by the assessed value of real property located in the City to determine the tax rate. If taxable property values have increased at a faster rate than the property tax levy, there may be a decrease in the tax rate, even though total expenditures and the tax levy have increased.

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Money coming in

Property Taxes

The property taxes are split between school districts, the City of Madison, Dane County, Madison Area Technical College & the State of Wisconsin.

2015 Allocation of Total Tax Levy
  • School Districts $264,556,619 (47.5%)
  • City of Madison $202,870,333 (36.5%)
  • Dane County $64,498,877 (11.6%)
  • Madison Area Technical College $20,690,949 (3.7%)
  • State of Wisconsin $3,854,176 (0.7%)
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2015 Allocation of Total Tax Levy

Other Funding

Next, all other funding allocations are added in to the City of Madison's total funding.

2015 Funding Sources by Major Category
  • Property Taxes $202,870,331 (71.7%)
  • Local Revenues $43,566,533 (15.4%)
  • Intergovernmental Payments $35,300,459 (12.5%)
  • Other (Fund Balance Applied) $1,366,506 (0.5%)
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2015 Funding Sources by Major Category

Money going out

Funding Gets Divided Up

The City of Madison's funding is split up between city departments.

2015 Operating Budget Expenditures by Function & Department
  • Public Safety & Health $119,011,054 (42.0%)
  • Dept. of Public Works & Transportation $62,488,727 (22.1%)
  • Debt Service $37,669,343 (13.3%)
  • Dept. of Planning & Development $19,865,568 (7.0%)
  • Administration $19,392,808 (6.9%)
  • Library $15,453,333 (5.5%)
  • Miscellaneous $7,972,433 (2.8%)
  • General Govt $1,800,565 (0.6%)
  • Public Facilities $0 (0.0%)
Public Safety & Health
  • Police $66,313,359
  • Fire $47,908,990
  • Public Health Madison & Dane County $4,788,705
Department of Public Works & Transportation
  • Streets $25,258,893
  • Parks $14,800,866
  • Metro Transit $12,974,926
  • Traffic Engineering $5,663,565
  • Engineering $3,790,476
Department of Planning & Development
  • Community Development Division $6,296,427
  • Planning Division $4,382,364
  • Building Inspection Division $4,341,631
  • Community Dev. Block Grant $2,875,420
  • Economic Development Division $1,152,260
  • Office of the Director of Planning $621,222
  • CDA Housing Operations $196,244
  • Information Technology $5,903,059
  • Finance $3,311,157
  • Attorney $2,669,815
  • Assessor $2,374,582
  • Human Resources $1,789,277
  • Civil Rights $1,461,951
  • Clerk $1,307,597
  • Treasurer $575,370
General Government
  • Mayor $1,303,806
  • Common Council $496,759
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2015 Operating Budget Expenditures by Function & Department