Michael Johnson

Boys & Girls Club of Dane County CEO Michael Johnson is encouraging Fitchburg residents to advocate for Boys & Girls Club funding at the city's budget public hearing Tuesday.

PHOTO BY MICHELLE STOCKER

In response to Fitchburg Mayor Jason Gonzalez's budget proposal removing funding for two nonprofits, Boys & Girls Club of Dane County CEO Michael Johnson announced a concept agreement that would provide programming and services funded by public and private partners to Fitchburg families and children.

Gonzalez’s 2018 budget proposal removed $50,000 in funding to the Boys & Girls Club and $10,000 to the Badger Prairie Needs Network, prompting outrage. The decision spurred a group of community organizers, grassroots leaders, concerned mothers and residents to announce their intention to recall Gonzalez.

The budget proposal also cuts a $50,000 community grant administered by the Community Economic Development Authority and $15,000 to the Healthy Neighborhoods Initiative.

Johnson announced the concept agreement live on Facebook Friday afternoon, which includes a $100,000 commitment from the city and $25,000 from the Boys & Girls Club with financial support from area businesses for community services. Johnson later called on the community to raise $50,000.

“Our kids deserve to be represented in this budget,” Johnson said.

Under the conceptual framework:

  • The city would provide $32,500 to contract with the Boys & Girls Club for youth and community programming in the King James Way and Allied Drive neighborhoods. The club would raise $17,500 from local businesses to cover other community programming costs in the same areas, like Thanksgiving dinners and a community fitness program

  • Fitchburg would provide $7,500 to provide food for families in need to be used in combination with $2,500 the Boys & Girls Club would raise from local businesses

  • The city would provide $60,000 to support new or existing community programs, and businesses would support $2,500.

Gonzalez said he, Johnson and other community leaders met Thursday and again Friday morning on the proposal Johnson brought forward.

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The mayor said he does not support the framework. However, Gonzalez said he would not veto an amendment approved by the City Council that included the proposal Johnson outlined.

“I stand by my budget,” Gonzalez said. “I think I brought forward a fiscally responsible budget that invests in the city, in the future growth and the future needs of all residents of the city.”

He also said alders are drafting their own amendment that addresses the needs of Fitchburg’s underserved communities.

Residents can attend a public hearing on the budget Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Fitchburg City Hall, 5520 Lacy Road. No decision will be made at the public hearing.

Budget amendments that alders would like considered are due Oct. 12 and will be discussed Oct. 25. A public hearing on the amendments and the council's vote on the budget is scheduled for Nov. 14.

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Abigail Becker joined The Capital Times in 2016, where she primarily covers city and county government. She previously worked for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the Wisconsin State Journal.