A Budget that Advances Madison's Values - Equity, Access, Transparency, Accountability
Tuesday, October 1, 2019 - 2:23pm
I sought the office of Mayor because I believe that Madison needs to be bold in pursuing the priorities we
hold dear – accessible and efficient transportation options for all residents, equitable and affordable
housing, strong neighborhoods to grow our families and our shared sense of community, and sustainable
guardianship of our environment as we make the city more resilient to climate change.
I anticipated that achieving these priorities would require overcoming tremendous barriers that are laid
before every community in Wisconsin. Federal infrastructure aid is shrinking. Wisconsin’s strict state imposed
limits on local decision-making provide few of the options available in other states to finance
critical mobility, infrastructure and transit investments.
Fully aware of these challenges, I approached the 2020 budget committed to finding ways to make the
priorities you have shared with me realities for Madison. The importance of investing in our youth and in
our neighborhoods are themes I hear voiced consistently in communities throughout our city. Accordingly,
although we faced significant fiscal challenges, we were able to find meaningful ways to introduce and
expand services on these fronts, among others.
Teens are increasingly using and transforming city spaces and making them their own and it is important
that we are equipped to serve them well. To that end, I am funding a Teen Programming Specialist at
Warner Park Community Recreation Center and a Teen Librarian at the Goodman South Library. Further
we will provide free summer bus passes to eligible middle and high school students. These bus passes will
ensure more equitable access for our young people to get to summer jobs, summer school and maybe
even a movie night in a neighborhood park. Finally, the City will help sponsor a Youth Summit in the spring
of 2020, an idea proposed by our very own Wanda Fullmore Interns. In addition to prioritizing strategies
that support young people directly, I am investing in neighborhoods by increasing support for the 15
neighborhood centers currently funded by the City. The goal is to encourage centers to expand their hours
and outreach to families in the communities they serve.
When we started this year’s planning process, I asked agencies to give me three scenarios for each of their
services: what happens if we increase your budget, what happens if we decrease your budget, and what
happens if your budget stays the same. Through this process I sought to shift the way we talk about our
budget. No more will conversations about the operating budget emphasize incremental year-over-year
change. Instead, we will talk about the services we are providing to our residents and ways those services
advance the results our residents expect.
Below are highlights outlining how my plan for Madison’s 2020 Operating Budget seeks to advance these
objectives within each of our Elements of a Great City reflected in our Imagine Madison strategic plan.
Economy and Opportunity
Ensuring Madison is a great place for everyone requires that there must be jobs at sustainable wages for all. In the 2020 budget we are focused on investing in job training not only for today’s workers, but also the next generation of our workforce. To that end, my budget invests in the following:
- Funding for the child and youth programming that aims to improve academic achievement and well-being through the school-age child & youth development funding process in the Community Development Division.
- Continued funding for youth and adult job training programs offered by community partners.
- Strengthening our local food economy by continuing to invest in the SEED grant program, community gardens partnership and other food programs.
Neighborhoods and Housing
Neighborhoods are at the center of what makes Madison a great place to live. Ensuring housing is affordable is one piece of the equation, but we must also make sure our neighborhoods are complete with the services residents need. My budget includes a number specific investments to expand city services in our neighborhoods, including:
- Funding for the City’s 15 neighborhood centers under a new framework with the goal of encouraging centers to expand their hours and outreach in the communities they serve. This framework reflects the first comprehensive review of funding for all neighborhood centers since 2013.
- Increased funding for Community Building and Engagement and a new structure supporting a broader range of activities cultivating leadership, inclusion, and engagement in Madison’s neighborhoods.
- Additional staffing for the new Pinney Library that will open early in 2020. The new Library has doubled in size and will feature dedicated space for youth and families.
- Helping children impacted by trauma and instability through a new Child Care Specialist position in the Community Development Division.
- Recognizing that young people need their own space and desiring to improving services to our youth the budget funds a Teen Librarian at the Goodman Library and a Teen Programming Specialist at Warner Park.
Green and Resilient
Climate change continues to be a reality facing Madison residents. Extended periods of rain in our
community cause many residents to wait anxiously during storms. One thing is certain; we must continue
to focus on reducing the City’s carbon footprint while continuing to be a steward of the City’s natural
environment. The 2020 budget includes funding for:
- Watershed Studies as a way to inform future capital investment through the Citywide Flood Mitigation program.
- Testing performed on a four-year rotation analyzing water quality, specifically related to salt levels in our water.
- Additional testing for PFAS on Madison’s east side.
- Creation of a new Energy Group within Engineering-Facilities Management. This new team will identify opportunities for energy savings and self-generation of renewable energy in City-owned buildings.
A smart and efficient government is paramount to ensuring we can advance these ambitious goals. It is critical that our administrative systems work as efficiently and effectively as possible to ensure our time and effort is focused on providing direct services to our residents. My budget invests in these innovations
- Safeguarding and growing voter access, engagement, and education, and supporting licensing services through a 16 percent increase in permanent staff in the Clerk’s Office.
- Improving the accuracy of our property tax assessments through planning for new computer assisted mass appraisal software systems.
- Ensuring that all residents have access to information about City operations, services, and policy issues through additional funding for the interpretation services reflected in our Language Access Plan.
- Reducing community disparities and ensuring high quality services to all city residents by continuing to incorporate recommendations from our Neighborhood Resource Teams and through continued investments in the Racial Equity and Social Justice and Performance Excellence Initiatives.
Preparing for the 2020 Census as an important step to ensuring federal funding is reflective of our population. To that end my budget includes the second year of two-year funding for the Census Count program to ensure Madison residents have accurate information about the Census with the goal of the highest possible participation by City residents.
Healthy and Safe
Making sure residents feel safe in their homes and communities is vital to the City’s success. Since 2015 our community has grappled with how we can best build trust, communication, and accountability into how we approach public safety services.
- My Executive Budget provides funding to three recommendations put forth by the Police Policy and Procedure Ad-Hoc Committee including:
included funding for this position as a Direct Appropriation. It is my intent to work with the incumbent in this position along with community stakeholders to determine the scope of responsibilities and additional staffing resources necessary to meet its objectives.
o Funding to invest in new tools to train Madison police officers on how best to deal with interactions with individuals who may have mental health concerns with the goal of
improving safety and outcomes for all involved.
o Employee wellness and mental health check-ins for MPD staff. The goal of this effort is to proactively provide services to MPD staff who frequently encounter traumatic situations.
Policing is only one component of what makes our City healthy and safe. My budget also includes:
- General Fund support to continue the Community Paramedicine program that was first implemented in 2015 with grant funding from the University of Wisconsin. This program will continue to focus on how to reduce frequent users of emergency medical services. 2020 will be the first year no grant funding is available for this program.
- Continued funding for 5.5 major snow events, which is the 10-year average rate.
- Dedicated funding in the Public Health budget to continue the Covering Wisconsin Navigators program assisting Madison and Dane County residents when enrolling for coverage through the Affordable Care Act.
- Three new Transit Operators, an Evening Shift Supervisor, and a position dedicated to building out Metro’s IT systems in support of a larger transit network.
- Efforts to incorporate BRT into current operations -- a comparative organizational study, an implementation plan for mobile ticketing, and a comprehensive analysis of Metro routes.
- Improving equity in our transit system by providing free summer bus passes for middle and high school students eligible for free and reduced lunch.
- Further improving equitable access to transit by increasing the monthly allotment of bus passes we make available for adults living with lower incomes.
- Expanding Metro Transit service for increased route frequency on Madison’s south side, better connecting working-class families and communities of color to numerous employers and Madison College’s new Goodman South Campus.
This element is what makes Madison live up to its reputation as a growing and thriving City. Supporting this vibrancy for our residents and visitors is important to the City’s continued growth. The 2020 budget includes:
- Continued funding for the Sina Davis Movies in the Park Program in the Parks Division-Community Recreation Services.
- Investment in an online reservation system deployed by the Parks Division, making the process to reserve a City park space more user friendly for residents and efficient for staff managing these reservations.
- Ongoing support for the Arts through neighborhood arts and placemaking grants. The budget also expands Arts programming funded through the Room Tax Commission.
Investing in new strategies to advance these goals forced a number of difficult decisions while seeking to
address a budget gap that started at $9.0 million and grew to $11.0 million during the planning process. I
asked city staff to devise new and creative solutions to deliver services with the same level of quality at a
City staff rose to this challenge and put forth a number of options I have incorporated into the final
balanced budget. These ideas include:
separately in the Streets and Parks Divisions into one group in the Streets Division. Under this new
model the Streets Division will eliminate redundancies in tasks and provide staff with more time
for one of our key sustainability goals -- maintaining the City’s urban forest.
mall maintenance fee. The current fee structure has not been changed since it was first created
in 1981. Under the structure I’ve proposed, costs will be evenly split between the City and property owners.
implement an annual $40 local vehicle registration fee that will take effect early next year. Implementing
this fee is not a decision I take lightly; however like other municipalities in Wisconsin, we have decided it
is the only remaining option to fund Madison’s critical transportation needs. Since strict property tax limits
were imposed by the state in 2011, the number of communities and counties using this option has grown
nine-fold – from 4 to 36. Communities varying in size from Arena to Appleton, Gillett to Green Bay, and
Milton to Milwaukee, have turned to these fees to help sustain critical transportation investments.
The State Legislature has continually refused to implement a long-term financing solution for state and
local transportation needs. Communities are therefore left with no choice but to lead with the tools
available. I would prefer to pursue alternatives other than a vehicle registration fee, but it is the only
option to achieve a modern transit infrastructure which supports our growing economy and decreases
inequity in our community. Nevertheless, even with this new fee, the cost of operating a vehicle in
Madison will remain among the lowest in the Midwest.
A portion of the vehicle registration fee will be used to improve Metro Transit service to our
residents. This includes helping more low-income families and students get bus passes; getting people
to jobs and services with better weekend service, and reliable and frequent weekend service for our
communities of color. The remainder of the vehicle registration fee will replace some of Madison’s
unsustainable subsidy to Metro Transit. This frees up property tax revenue that will prevent cuts to
critical functions such as police, fire, health, and other community services.
Our goal is to maintain high-quality city services. The City of Madison workforce is the lifeline that makes
achieving our goals feasible. We cannot, and will not, balance the City’s budget on the backs of our
employees. Recognizing their commitment and talents, I have worked hard to avoid layoffs and furloughs
and continued the practice of maintaining pay equity between our sworn and civilian employees.
Maintaining pay equity for city staff, achieving a balanced and fiscally-responsible budget while making
progress on our priorities requires employing all of the tools available to us – new revenue options,
spending reductions, program consolidations and efficiencies, and full use of financing options. My
budget uses the allowable property tax levy under state law. It also allocates for operating purposes
approximately $6.1 million of the $7.7 million of property tax levy that must be dedicated to capital
projects under city ordinance. This financing option will require support of at least two-thirds of the
Common Council to implement. I am committed to working with the Council on this budget and laying
the foundation for long-range financial planning critical to ensuring city programs and priorities are
sustainable in the long-term.
My proposed budget increases general and library fund expenditures by 2.5%, the property tax levy by
3.2%, and taxes on the average value home of $300,967 by $88, or 3.4%. General fund revenues, including
state aid, are estimated to increase 0.6%. The tax rate is expected to fall 2.1% due to an increase in taxable
property value in the city of 5.5%. Approximately $330,000 of the allowable levy remains available for
Council action on the budget.
There are some difficult decisions reflected in this budget. Cost trends in the Fire Department will require
active management of non-essential staffing levels and costs to ensure adequate response times. The
Police Department is reallocating officers from specialized units to ensure patrol priorities are met.
Funding for certain community programs have been scaled back to sustainable levels. CDA housing
activities have to be wholly self-sustaining in lieu of receiving a general fund supplement. These are
challenges we will overcome together. I assure you that with our dedicated City staff and Council, we will
continue to take on these challenges directly to ensure we’re working together to best meet the needs of
I look forward to working with the Council on implementing a shared vision for accomplishing our
priorities. The recommendations in the executive budget ask for significant commitments from our
residents and city employees, but I believe the plan moves us toward our vision of an innovative, inclusive,
and thriving Madison for everyone.
- Katie Crawley, 608-266-4611