Madison Finance Committee members offered a set of amendments Friday to Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway’s proposed 2020 capital budget in an effort to reduce overall spending.
Rhodes-Conway’s proposed capital budget includes $170.6 million in new spending, relying on $96.6 million in general obligation borrowing and $73.9 million from other sources. If the Finance Committee’s proposed 15 amendments are adopted, they would lower the total amount of borrowing and other funding sources by $2.3 million for a total of $168.3 million.
The Finance Committee will vote on the executive capital budget and amendments at its Monday meeting, which is at 4:30 p.m. in room 215 of the Madison Municipal Building, 215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
Budget amendments often drive up spending, which is not the case with the Finance Committee's proposed changes to the mayor's 2020 budget.
This year, the city is benefiting from $4.8 million that it received through a settlement with Volkswagen, through some of the fines the company paid for cheating on emissions tests. The settlement funding would be used to pay for diesel buses in 2020, according to an amendment sponsored by the mayor.
“What that is allowing us to do is bring down the amount of money that we’re borrowing for buses and the amount of our federal funds for buses that we have to use in 2020,” said budget & program evaluation manager Laura Larsen.
This also allows the city to apply the funding freed up by the Volkswagen settlement throughout the remainder of the Capital Improvement Plan, which outlines improvement projects over the next five years.
"It helps tremendously in a tough budget season," said Council President Shiva Bidar, who represents District 5.
The Volkswagen funds will allow the city to purchase 10 diesel buses in 2020 with only 20% of the cost coming from the city and the rest from federal funds. In future years, the city will assume a 50/50 split between local and federal funding while continuing to purchase 15 diesel buses per year. The terms of the federal grant stipulate that the city must use the funds for this purpose.
With amendments addressing parks and libraries, Bidar said the list reflects "priorities of resident access to good services."
This year, the mayor introduced a new tool called the “Horizon List,” which includes items that need additional planning before being included in the capital budget. She moved the $16.6 million proposal for a library in Reindahl Park from 2019 to this list.
But Ald. Samba Baldeh, District 17, proposed moving the project back into the Capital Improvement Plan. The amendment proposes to include $1.1 million in 2020, $500,000 in 2021 and $15 million in 2022.
"The whole idea is this library project has been in the making now, at least where we are spending money, for two or three years," Baldeh said, referring to funds set aside for community outreach and planning. "I cannot see how members of the City Council who were there before can vote against it."
Baldeh is also sponsoring an amendment to officially change the name of the project to the Reindahl Imagination Center to reflect the wide range of services the center hopes to accommodate.
"It is not just a library. It is library plus more," Baldeh said.
The construction of a burn tower for Madison Fire Department training is another project the mayor included on the Horizon List. Alds. Paul Skidmore, District 9; Arvina Martin, District 11 and Mike Tierney, District 16, are proposing to restore $1.25 million in 2024 for the project.
Bidar said discussions surrounding the Imagination Center and the burn tower will be more about evaluating whether there is enough detail to take them off of the Horizon List and put them into the Capital Improvement Plan.
Other amendments include one sponsored by Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, that would add $700,000 in 2020 for a new mini park at the city-owned plaza next to the Madison Senior Center, 330 W. Mifflin St. The need for more open and green spaces was identified in the draft Mifflandia Plan, which centered around the 400 and 500 blocks of West Mifflin Street and West Washington Avenue.
This project was previously planned for in the Community Development Division's budget. Verveer's amendment would remove $225,000 in borrowing in 2021 from the CDD's Senior Center Building Improvements projects.
Bidar is sponsoring an amendment that advances the $60,000 the mayor included in 2022 for less lethal Madison Police Department tools, which were not identified but could include increased training or tasers.
The amendment also requires the MPD to obtain City Council approval if it begins to use less lethal technology not currently being used by officers.
An amendment sponsored by the mayor would eliminate the Capital Revolving Fund Loans program and transfer the $500,000 to a new capital program called Commercial Ownership Assistance. The program would fund loans to small business owners and nonprofit organizations to help them transition from renting space to owning commercial property.
If adopted, the amendments would result in a property tax savings of $2.27 on the average Madison home, valued at about $300,000, in 2020. The total impact of the Capital Improvement Plan, including the proposed amendments, would add $5.41 in property taxes to the average value home.
The full list of amendments can be found on the city’s budget website.