Alder David Ahrens
210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 266-4071
Fax: (608) 267-8669
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Alder Ahrens’ Updates
Special Budget Report
This week, the Council passed and the Mayor signed the 2017 budgets. This is the largest budget in the city's history: $300 million for operations and $360 million for capital improvements. Here is a very brief summary of some of the major or most contentious issues:
Capital Budget: The capital budget got the most attention and deservedly so. Our expenditures on building projects today largely defines what we'll spend for operations in the years to come. A new police station requires more police, etc.
The major items in this budget were:
The Midtown Police Station: Once again, the Council added it to the budget. This time we will closely monitor its progress to ensure that it actually gets built and not delayed in the bureaucracy.
Madison Municipal Building: This $23 million project to rehab the MMB (also known as the Old Post Office) is the biggest item in the budget. In fact, it is probably the largest city expenditure on any project. There was an effort to postpone it for a year but it was quite late in the process. Almost all of the employees working in the MMB have already moved out to newly leased space. Postponing the project won't make it less expensive, it just puts off the work that needs to be done.
Public Market: The Mayor proposed spending about $1.5 million this year and $13 million next year on this project. Last year, I successfully added an amendment that required future spending by the city to be matched on a 2:1 basis with federal or private spending. It appears that will no longer be the case. I believe the market will require on-going subsidies to operate just as Monona Terrace requires $4-5 million per year.
This market will be located one mile from three major food markets and two miles from the largest outdoor market in the nation. The Mayor said we didn't need a police and fire station but that we need another food market for the eastside. Really?
Closing TID 32: One of the major problems concerning the Tax Incremental Finance (TIF) program is that it is so complicated that most people don't want to hear about it. Here's a short version of the issue: Much of downtown receives a large amount of funding from TIF-funded projects in their area. Some of those projects, such as re-paving streets, would otherwise be paid by city funds. However, other projects are exclusive to those areas such as undergrounding power lines, decorative lighting, etc. I supported closing off the funding for this one district and instead divert its revenue for one year for affordable housing and in later years, to the rest of the city. The effort failed but the discussion on the inequities of some of the TIF programs was begun.
Pinney Library: The city has been negotiating with the developer of Royster Corners for two years. In order to give the city other options, I proposed that in addition to Royster the city could choose other sites in the immediate vicinity. The amendment passed and I hope that the impasse is ended and we can get the library built in 2017.
Summary: The biggest item in the capital budget is always road repair and construction. It is usually about half, this year a little less. Other major items are a few new buses that will replace old ones but not add to the fleet, a new radio system for vehicles, traffic management and unfortunately, a huge tree "chipper" (at a cost of about $1 million) to dispose of our ash trees.
Given the fact that we deliberated from 5 PM to 2:30 AM on Monday and 5 PM to 11 PM on Tuesday, I think we should have arrived at better budget.
I was one of three Council members to vote against this budget. If we add nothing to our debt over the next two years, our debt service will constitute 17% of our spending by 2020. Given that roads will still need to be repaired and that we may see the Market, a fire station, etc, in the next few years, we could reach 20% debt (which will adversely affect our bond rating).
I also voted against it because of the city administration's tactics in "selling" the public market. Not only is this a bad investment for the city as a whole but many people have been led to believe that they will be vendors when that is not the case.
The budget for the Operating Budget was similar in most respects to last year's budget. There was no appreciable increase in the number of employees or new programs. Employees received a 2% wage increase which accounted for much of the increase in the operating budget.
Other program additions included an effort for violence prevention focused on juveniles and for released prisoners, an addition of police detectives and worker training.
The immediate impact of the budget is an increase in the tax rate of 3.55%. For a house that's valued at $200,000, that's an increase of about $70 per year. Well above the rate of inflation and likely to further increase in future years.
Free Conserving Showerheads: Tomorrow Only!
As part of Madison Water Utility's conservation initiative, we're giving away more than a thousand high-efficiency, WaterSense showerheads this Saturday at Warner Park Community Recreation Center. By switching to WaterSense showerheads, the average family could save 2,900 gallons of water every year – plus they'll save the energy it would have taken to heat all that water.
Madison Water Utility customers interested in picking up a free showerhead can stop by the Warner Park Community Recreation center this Saturday, November 19th between 9.am. and 1 p.m. Bring proof of Madison residency or your Municipal Services Bill. Limit one per household.
The showerheads use just one-and-a-half gallons of water per minute – a full gallon less than a typical showerhead. They are made in the USA and feature an innovative, compact design that creates a wide spray from a single stream of water. The showerheads are constructed from solid brass and stainless steel and contain a pressure regulator that works to keep spray strength consistent.
Showerheads left over after Saturday's event will handed out at our Olin St. offices starting Monday, Nov. 21st during regular business hours.
Have a good weekend! And as always, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 334-1156.
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