City-County Building (copy)

Funding for a public health approach to violence prevention remains in the 2018 Madison operating budget, despite concerns from some city officials about the reality of actually spending that money on initiatives next year.

The Madison Finance Committee voted Monday against an amendment sponsored by Ald. Sara Eskrich, District 13, to remove $250,000 in funding that Mayor Paul Soglin included in his $313.9 million 2018 operating budget  for a public health based violence prevention effort.

Soglin’s proposal also included reclassifying two existing positions within Public Health-Madison & Dane County to support the program’s work.

“This program is going to be able to take us to a level of, instead of just responding to shots fired and shootings, to working with the identified individuals who are likely to participate in those activities,” Soglin said.

Eskrich said she supports pursuing a public health approach to violence prevention but believes that the public health department will need more time to hire new positions, collect data, build partnerships and trust with the community and develop recommendations.

“I don't think it’s realistic to say we’re going to put $250,000 out the door to initiatives in 2018 responsibly,” Eskrich said.

The program would be located in the joint city and county health department, but would be fully funded by the city. The positions would also be hired using the county’s process, which tends to be slower than Madison's. However, Soglin urged Dane County Executive Joe Parisi to expedite the process.

Soglin remained confident the program would be operational in 2018. 

“If we’re going to sit here and wait, we’re losing. And we’re losing lives,” Soglin said.

Madison’s Finance Committee approved 18 of a proposed 22 amendments, adding $391,000 in spending to the proposed operating budget and increasing taxes on the average value home by $66.

The committee also did not approve an amendment that would have added $400,000 to hire 15 new police officers through a federal community policing hiring grant. The has not yet received the grant.

“I believe violence prevention is very important, but I also believe a properly staffed police department is very important,” sponsor of the amendment Ald. Paul Skidmore, District 9, said.

As Madison as it gets: Get Cap Times' highlights sent daily to your inbox

Soglin included $350,000 in his budget proposal to phase in officers over time, if the grant is received, and hopes to hear before the Council’s budget deliberations next month.

Under the adopted amendments, Madison’s homeless day resource center would receive an additional $40,000. Soglin’s proposed budget includes $110,000 for The Beacon, and the additional funding brings the total ongoing funding to $150,000 to support the center’s $688,000 annual budget.

Committee members also urged Catholic Charities, the center’s operator, to consider adding overnight storage. The Beacon currently has lockers for day time storage.

Community Development Division Director Jim O'Keefe said the city originally offered $135,000 to run the day resource center in 2018, but pulled back $25,000 that was meant for overnight storage, since that amenity is not available.  

The committee also approved:

  • Creating an environmental sustainability project leader with an annual salary, including benefits, of $95,000. The funding would come from the Sustainability Improvement program.
  • Adding $100,000 to create a program assistant and increase funding for training and programming.
  • Appropriating $30,000 for a consultant to draft a project plan establishing children's savings accounts for all kindergarten students in Madison's public schools to attend college or continuing education.
  • Spending $20,000 from the contingent reserves to purchase individual naloxone dispensers, used to treat heroin overdoses, for the police department.
  • Providing a reimbursement benefit for employees who receive transition-related health care.

The committee approved an additional $6.5 million in projects to Soglin's proposed $326.1 million capital budget. The City Council will make its final decision on the 2018 capital and operating budgets during the week of Nov. 13.

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

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.