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
November 2014: Budgets, Projects, Trees
City Budget: The budget for 2015 is almost completed. Although the City Council has many meetings to discuss the budget, the reality is that the Mayor allocates about 99.5% of the funds while the Council makes a few changes.
There are a few important "take home" points about this budget:
• It raises property taxes about 2%. That's about the rate of inflation (low end) and accounts for increases in insurance, energy, salaries, etc. Salaries of most city employees will increased by 1.5%. The average home owner will see an increase in taxes of about $60 next year.
• It substantially increases the long-term debt of the city. The Mayor has proposed many major building projects over the next few years including the reconstruction of the Madison Municipal Building (at least $30 million), a new police station on the west side, a fire station on the south east end of the city, four new neighborhood centers, a local food market, the new Pinney Library and many major street projects. The city will borrow about $250 million each year for these projects. But we will have to pay back our lenders and in a few years about 20% of our taxes will go towards paying off these debts rather than actually providing services.
I proposed either postponing or eliminating some of these projects such as the food market and the new police station. I also opposed adding new neighborhood centers because we are cutting back funds for the centers we already operate.
On the plus side, I proposed increasing the budget to resurface some of our streets that are in poor condition.
Hearings on Royster Corners: There will be two hearings on the initial development of Royster Corners. These are the buildings on the corner of Dempsey and Cottage Grove Rd. This is the site of Pinney Library along with a large retail space. Above that will be three floors of apartments.
The first hearing is at the Urban Design Committee on Nov. 5 on the first floor of the Municipal Building. The committee may discuss everything from the style of the brick work to the positioning of the driveways. The hearing starts at 4:30 PM.
The second hearing is before the Plan Commission. The Commission will decide on design issues but also if the buildings are suitable for the neighborhood and for the remainder of the project. The hearing will be held on Nov. 10 and starts at 6 PM. This body also has a long agenda so there may be some waiting time before you get to speak.
Correction on Royster: In last month's blog I wrote about the hard work of the members of the Royster planning committee but did not mention two key members: Alder Larry Palm (former representative of the 15th) and County Board Supervisor Tom Stoebig. My apologies for this omission. Much of the reason for the success of this project is due to their work and other committee members.
Hearing on Rethke: Also, on Nov. 10, the Plan Commission will decide on the rezoning and approval of the 60-unit apartment house for chronically homeless single adults on Rethke Ave. This will not be controversial because of the building occupants or programs. The issue is that this is a purely residential building but there is no parking for residents. There are at least nine people on the staff but only ten parking spaces. There is no parking for residents, visitors or other staff. Nor is there parking on E. Washington or on Rethke Ave. The developer intends to get approved for this shortfall by stating that the main kitchen can be used by non-residents and thus, the building actually is a commercial facility. I believe that if the Plan Commission agrees with the developer, the current standards for reasonable levels of parking for residential buildings will be, by precedent, eliminated.
Saving Park Ash Trees: The city is in danger of losing most of our ash trees to the emerald ash borer. The current plan is to save as many ash trees on the city terraces
as possible. Small trees, diseased trees and those directly under wires will be cut down. Thousands of parks trees to also be cut down.
What's the option? Treatment is available that protects trees from the pest. However, it is expensive: Treating a mature tree can cost $200 for treatment every other year. The city has appropriated $1.4 million for treatment and removal. We've also instituted a new "Forestry Fee" of about $5 per household for additional costs.
Clearly, we need more money to address this problem. Unless we do, we will lose over 2,000 trees in east side parks. Olbrich will lose over 200.
Consider what our parks will look like for generations to come.
Taking Action: Eastmorland Neighborhood Association has begun circling ribbon around endangered ash trees. This action is to build awareness of the threat of the borer and what the parks will look like without trees.
They are also raising money to purchase chemical treatments for the trees. You can contribute to the program by writing a check to "ECA Save the Park Ash Trees Fund" and sending it to ECA/ PO Box 14584, Madison, WI 53708.
Other Items on the ballot: As we all know, Election Day is this Tuesday. Almost all of the news coverage and certainly all of those highly informative commercials are about the candidacies for a few offices. Not much about what the candidates will do on important issues like jobs and health care.
Not much mentioned are advisory ballot questions concerning two very important issues. First, should the state increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour. Second, should the state accept federal funds to expand the Medicaid program. This will give medical coverage for tens of thousands of working poor and bring hundreds of millions of federal dollars into the state to buy that health care.
I am always interested in your comments, concerns and interests. You can reach me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or at 334 1156
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