Fitchbury City Council Oct 10

Hundreds gathered at Fitchburg City Hall Oct. 10 for a public hearing about the city's proposed 2018 budget, with many asking that funding for nonprofits in the city be restored. A budget amendment would add $100,000 that nonprofits could apply for through a competitive process. 

PHOTO BY LISA SPECKHARD PASQUE

Following a Fitchburg budget proposal that cut funding to nonprofit organizations operating in the city, alders have proposed amendments to the 2018 budget that would add funding to those groups through competitive grants.

One amendment, sponsored by Ald. Dorothy Krause, District 1, would add $100,000 that would be distributed through a competitive application process to nonprofit groups who apply for the grant funding.

Krause said the city should support residents with greater needs but through contracting with nonprofit providers instead of directly providing social services.

“If we want to concern ourselves with the well-being of residents of our city that are not taken care of through other avenues, we should play some part in ensuring that people’s most basic needs are met, as we have through our senior center on the city campus,” Krause said in the budget amendment.

To be eligible, nonprofit groups must directly benefit residents within priority neighborhoods identified in the Healthy Neighborhood Initiative. The initiative is meant to address specific barriers to opportunities in the Verona Road West, Belmar/Renaissance on the Park and North Fish Hatchery Road neighborhoods.

Another amendment sponsored by Alds. Julia Arata-Fratta, Daniel Bahr and Tony Hartmann, who represent districts and 2 and 4, would invest between $75,000 and $100,000 in the Healthy Neighborhood Initiative. The City Council would determine the amount during budget deliberations.

That amendment also adds $150,000 in park fees in lieu of land dedication for eligible projects within the priority neighborhoods.  

A third amendment sponsored by Alds. Ann Scott, District 1, and Tom Clauder, District 4, would establish a grant fund that would be contingent on the city receiving federal Community Development Block Grant funds or other private donations.

The Fitchburg City Council will vote on a total of 17 budget amendments at a meeting Nov. 14.

Mayor Jason Gonzalez’s 2018 budget sparked criticism for cutting $50,000 in funding to the Boys & Girls Club, $10,000 to the Badger Prairie Needs Network, a $50,000 community grant administered by the Community Economic Development Authority and $15,000 to the Healthy Neighborhoods Initiative.

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The executive budget proposal prompted a group of community leaders to announce a mayoral recall effort and hundreds who advocated for restoring nonprofit funding at a budget hearing Oct. 10.

Gonzalez has defended his proposed budget as “fiscally responsible.” He also said he would not veto an amendment approved by the City Council.

Boys & Girls Club of Dane County CEO Michael Johnson has led online criticism of the funding cuts and proposed a framework that would provide programming and services funded by public and private partners to Fitchburg families and children. In previous budgets, the Boys & Girls Club has received $50,000 from the city.

“Our advocacy is paying off and hopefully the City of Fitchburg will do the right thing,” Johnson said.  

Johnson said he likes the “spirit” of the amendments but would like to see funding included specifically for the King James Way and Allied Drive neighborhoods and for youth community centers.

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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.