Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I get a copy of the budget?
Copies of the budgets since 2000 can be found online. You can also find a paper copy at your local library or contact the Finance Department at (608)266-4671.
What is the City's fiscal year?
It is the same as the calendar year.
Where does the City get its money?
Most of the city's general fund revenue, nearly 75 percent, comes from the property tax on homes and businesses. Other sources of funds for the City include revenues from services and fees such as building permits, parking fines, ambulance fees and pet licenses, as well as revenue from the state government.
For more information: see a chart of where the city's money comes from.
How is the City's budget structured?
There are two main parts to the City's budget, or spending plan. The operating budget provides money for running City departments and services - it pays for the day-to-day spending on employees and materials and supplies. The capital budget provides money for items like playgrounds, sidewalks, and road paving. It covers major investments in land, buildings, and equipment. The capital budget is financed primarily by long-term borrowing.
What City department or services get the biggest slice of the pie?
More than 40% of the city's general fund spending is for public safety and health (Police, Fire and Health Departments).
For more information: see a chart of how the City spends your money.
What is the City's credit rating?
The City's finances are in the top tier of communities throughout the United States. Moody's, a financial rating agency, rated the City of Madison Aaa, which is the highest possible rating. It denotes an extremely strong capacity to meet financial commitments.
What is the budget process?
For more information: Learn about the budget process.
Why Does the City borrow money to pay for the Capital Budget?
The capital budget uses borrowed money to fund projects that benefit future taxpayers. For example, the benefits of a new Fire station will last for decades. Financing a facility with notes or bonds paid off over ten to twenty years spreads the cost over the life of the building and on future taxpayers who benefit from it.
Does the City have a "rainy day" or reserve fund to help during tight budget times?
The City's unreserved fund balance is held back for use only in an emergency. Maintaining the rainy day fund is critical to keeping the high credit rating that allows the City to borrow money for important projects at lower costs than most cities. Additionally, the City of Madison's budget policy is to not use one-time revenue sources to fund ongoing operating expenses.
Why can't you use bond or note funds to help during tight budget times?
The City borrows money only for long-term capital projects. It would be inappropriate to use borrowed funds to pay operating expenses.
What is the difference between the Executive and Adopted Budget?
The Executive Budget is the version proposed by the Mayor. The Adopted Budget is the final budget approved by the Council after amendments.
How much of my property tax bill goes to the City of Madison?
About one-third of the bill is for the City, almost one-half is for the school district, and the remainder is for the county and technical college.