In one marathon meeting ending in the early hours of Tuesday morning, Madison’s City Council approved the city's capital and operating budgets for 2018. 

The adopted budget raises raises the tax bill on an average value home by $93 for a total average tax bill of $2,510 in 2018. It increases the total tax levy by 5.2 percent and includes $231 million in property taxes.

Capital funding debates included deliberations over spending on a public market, police officer body cameras and a new west side employment center. In the operating budget, alders considered changes to violence prevention funding and money for more police officers.

The Council added about $300,000 to the Finance Committee’s recommended budget, which now totals $332.8 million. Of that, $157.7 million is in general obligation borrowing. The adopted operating budget for 2018 totals $314.8 million.

The 2018 Capital Budget outlines the beginning stages of a new community center on the far east side in Reindahl Park, provides $6.3 million for a new fire station on the southeast side, $4.5 million for Olbrich Park improvements and $10.5 million relocation of Pinney Library, among other projects.

The City Council adopted an amendment sponsored by Ald. Shiva Bidar, District 5, that removed $123,000 for a police officer body camera pilot program. The funding would have gone toward 47 body-worn cameras, related equipment, training and overtime fees as part of the program in the Madison Police Department's north district.

“This is an opportunity to test the waters to see if it works,” Ald. Paul Skidmore, District 9, and sponsor of the program, said. “This is our opportunity to develop policy.”

Bidar has said she wants to wait for the result of a long-term study of the Madison Police Department and expressed skepticism over implementing a pilot with the intention of implementing a program department wide.

Ald. Denise DeMarb, District 16, opposed the body camera funding and also said it is “premature” to make a decision on body cameras until the results of the comprehensive police study are released.

“We don’t know what it’s going to tell us. We don’t know what the priorities are,” DeMarb said. “If it’s on the list and it’s a priority, we can come back to this.”

Alders defeated an amendment proposed by Ald. David Ahrens, District 15, to reduce the local share of funding for the Madison Public Market by $3 million and increase unidentified federal funding by the same amount.

Soglin’s executive budget allocated $2.5 million in private donations, $3 million in federal New Market Tax Credits and $7.5 million from the city. That’s an increase from last year’s budget, which committed a total of $4.25 million in city funding.

“In all the discussion about the deficits in our city and the disparities, the one in which we have done the least and which may be the greatest is entrepreneurship and the owning of businesses by local families,” Soglin said.

The indoor public market is slated for a shopping center on the corner of First Street and East Washington Avenue. The market plans to host tenants selling homegrown food from small-scale farmers, specialty gifts, wholesale opportunities and culturally diverse food.

The market site will also host a 15,000 square-foot Food Innovation Center with training programs, test kitchens and food processing space.

Dan Kennelly, manager of the office of businesses resources for the city, said the market, which is estimated at about $14 million, is expected to break even in its fourth year of operation and would not call for ongoing operating expenses from the city. The total project cost includes the estimated $2.2 million land acquisition fees, Kennelly said.

Ahrens’ amendment would have eliminated the proposed additional $3 million in city funds and replaced it with $3 million in unknown federal money. Calling the project a “palace,” Ahrens said the market could be created for less.

“We’ve lost sight of what it is we’re supposed to be doing,” Ahrens said. “We’ve gone absolutely whole hog on this whole thing without any clear end in sight.”

Opponents, including the mayor, argued that Ahrens’ amendment would have effectively killed the public market and that federal funding sources are not available and unlikely under the current administration.

Soglin said the city has a one-year window to acquire federal tax credits. Without sufficient funding in 2018, he said the city will not be in a position to receive those credits.

“If that happens, then we are going to lose our private sector partners at that site, and I think for all intents and purposes the project is dead,” Soglin said.

The City Council unanimously approved a $400,000 amendment sponsored by Ald. Barbara Harrington-McKinney, District 1, for construction costs associated with the west side's Park Edge/ Park Ridge employment center.

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The funds will fill a funding gap, bringing the total cost of the project to $1.6 million. The city previously received three proposals for the center ranging from $1.4 million to $1.6 million but were rejected due to lack of sufficient funding.

While the the center, which will be located at the former Griff’s restaurant at 1233 McKenna Blvd., is in the process of opening, the Urban League of Greater Madison, the operator of the center, has been offering services at a temporary location at 658 S. Gammon Road.

“If there’s any part of town that needs an economic shot in the arm, it’s this side of town,” Urban League president and CEO Ruben Anthony said. “This is a catalytic moment to create a positive economic opportunity.”

2018 Operating Budget 

The 2018 Operating Budget allocates $1.5 million to begin staffing the new Midtown police station and the southeast side fire station. It also continues the five-year phase-in of $15 minimum wage for all city jobs by adding $80,000 in new funding.

The Council approved a $400,000 amendment in a an effort to add 15 police officers with the assistance of a federal community policing hiring grant, if it is awarded to Madison.

Soglin’s budget included $350,000 that could be used to add three officers without the grant. It could also be used to hire seven officers, if the grant is received, and phased in the rest over the next several years.

The Council also approved reducing funding a public health-based violence prevention effort by $240,000 and increasing funding for youth and adult employment program contracts within the Community Development Division by $150,000. The amendment approved at the meeting would also put $90,000 back into the general fund.

“Let’s invest it where we know there’s work being done,” Bidar, sponsor of the amendment said.  

Ald. Matt Phair, District 20, said the city needs to allow the public health department enough time to fully understand the challenges facing Madison in order to create generational change.

“We’re talking about doing this right for kids in the city and then their kids in the city,” Phair said.

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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.