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City of Madison Finance | Photo Credit: Archie Nicolette

CITY OF MADISON INTER-DEPARTMENTAL CORRESPONDENCE

Date: October 1, 2002
To: President and Members, Madison Common Council
From: Mayor Susan J.M. Bauman
Subject: 2003 Executive Operating Budget

I am pleased to present the 2003 Executive Operating Budget for your review. In an environment unsettled by a sluggish economy and a State budget situation that promises to get worse before it gets better, this budget proposal preserves the high quality services to which Madison residents have grown accustomed. Moreover, it does so without adding to the burden on city taxpayers and without pushing costs off to future years.

The City of Madison is highly regarded for its sound fiscal management. We have earned that reputation by resisting temptations to cut corners, by rejecting quick fix solutions and budgeting gimmicks, by meeting infrastructure and service needs and by refusing to mortgage our future. This discipline explains much of why Madison can boast of our sustained economic growth, a healthy budget reserve and the highest bond rating available. The budget I am forwarding to you builds on that tradition.

Our work on the 2003 budget commenced under the threat of substantial cuts in state aids. Though they did not materialize for 2003, and aren't scheduled to occur until 2004, the state's financial situation remains sufficiently unsettled to warrant a cautious approach to our 2003 budget. Under these circumstances, I instructed agency heads to prepare 2003 budgets at 98% of 2002 spending levels. Some of these targets were adjusted to reflect funding needed to maintain current service levels.

Though generally satisfied with agency responses, my staff and I scrutinized these recommendations for potential impacts on the City objectives and priority areas that the Council had re-affirmed earlier this year. I did not accept agency recommendations that I concluded were in conflict with these priorities. The promotion of safe and vital neighborhoods for all our citizens, the provision of high quality basic services and fair taxation - these are among the goals we staked out and to which this budget is responsive.

In support of public safety, I added back more than $2.5 million to the police and fire department budgets. Partial-year funding is provided for staffing (7 firefighters and 9 paramedics) in anticipation of the 2004 opening of the Northeast fire station, for a spring recruit class and for a new contract for an EMS medical director. Money is also added to more accurately reflect anticipated police overtime costs, to add two police squad cars and to restore parking enforcement and crossing guard positions that the department had proposed cutting to meet its 98% target.

Public works services are another focus of this budget. I rejected recommended cuts in a variety of core Streets Division services, adding back nearly half a million dollars for a street repair crew, crosswalk snow removal, graffiti eradication, litter can collection and stump grubbing. To meet the demands of growth in the city, two new positions will be added. The Parks budget also receives funds to add four seasonal laborers for park maintenance operations. Also, the Engineering Division, through the storm water utility, will add six positions to enhance the maintenance of our sanitary and storm sewers and improve greenway maintenance.

The budget also addresses areas that typically do not receive as much attention but are vital to the city's well being. Funding is restored to continue the Affirmative Action AASPIRE program, which provides an invaluable opportunity to expose talented youth to city government. A part-time hourly clerk is funded for the Senior Center to supplement the excellent volunteer efforts at that facility. And, money is added to increase the pay for those who work as election officials. These people are critical to ensuring that elections in Madison run smoothly.

Neighborhood support and youth services are enhanced under this budget. Neighborhood centers and community gardens will receive inflationary increases and $230,000 is added to the Community Services budget for grants to non-profit agency providers. The budget provides $100,000 for additional library materials, especially for non-English language materials, to be made available in library branches throughout the city and funds a community-based youth services position at the South Madison branch library. It restores funding for Child Care grants that Community Services had proposed to cut to meet its budget target and provides money to restore a planner position and add a zoning code enforcement position. These will help improve our responsiveness in city neighborhoods.

To support multi-modal transportation choices, the budget offers support for positions in Madison Metro to enhance the provision of reliable public transit service as well as staff in Engineering to help plan for and construct major new bike path facilities.

While this budget maintains high quality services, it also gives a needed break to Madison taxpayers. General Fund spending will increase by just 2.2% from 2002 levels, well below anticipated state spending limits. Coupled with strong growth in non-property tax revenues, the plan requires less than a half percent increase in the property tax levy. And here's the best part: The owner of an average valued home in Madison will pay nearly two percent less for city services in 2003 than she or he did in 2002!

A number of factors make a tax cut possible. An important one is our ability to hold spending to just 2.2% over last year's levels, particularly given the city's continued growth and high demand for services. Another is that for the second consecutive year, state aid payments hold steady, thus Madison property tax payers need not pay more to recoup state aid reductions. I would hope this positive impact on property taxes would not be lost on the Governor and Legislature as they contemplate future cuts in aids to local governments.

The budget is also aided by continued strong growth in new construction and home improvements. Our commitment to ensuring a high quality of life for those who choose to make Madison their home encourages investment in our community by homeowners and businesses. That growth is reflected in this budget as building permit fees continue to increase and help reduce pressure on the property tax.

Our sound budgeting practices also pay a dividend to tax payers in this budget. In recent years, the combination of good management and good fortune have produced budget surpluses and allowed us to build a healthy reserve to protect against unforeseen problems. I anticipate the 2002 budget will produce additional surpluses, owing largely to cost saving measures undertaken earlier this year. The 2003 Executive Budget uses more of that surplus to ease property taxes and does so without depleting our reserves.

Finally, our conversion to a storm water management utility continues to pay off for property tax payers. Last year we began the process of shifting charges associated with storm water management off the property tax and onto a fee paid by all those that benefit from these services. This budget completes that process and removes the remaining storm water management costs from the general fund and the property tax levy.

Though we could spend as much as $1.7 million more in 2003 under state spending caps, it would be unwise to do so. The 2004 budget promises to be much more challenging given that cuts in state aids have already been approved. We should be mindful of that as we make spending decisions for 2003. This is a sound and prudent budget for today's economic conditions. It preserves high quality basic services while delivering the first property tax cut in decades. I am pleased to offer it for your consideration.

cc: Department/Division Heads