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The Beacon

A proposed operating budget amendment would bring the city's total annual financial support of The Beacon day center to $150,000.

To address a gap in funding for a new homeless day resource center, Madison City Council alders are proposing a $40,000 amendment to Mayor Paul Soglin’s 2018 executive operating budget.

Soglin’s proposed budget includes $110,000 for The Beacon, and the additional funding would bring the total ongoing funding to $150,000 to support the center’s $688,000 annual budget.

“We wanted to pay our fair share of the portion,” Ald. Zach Wood, District 4, said. “This has been a long time coming. I think it’s an exciting project, and I think it will have a number of really important benefits for the city.”

Dane County is providing $175,000, and the United Way of Dane County plans to contribute $100,000, pending approval from its board. Catholic Charities also plans to commit $175,000.

Alders and Soglin have proposed 22 amendments to the executive $313.9 million operating budget for 2018. The amendments would add $456,070 in spending.

Ald. Sara Eskrich, District 13, has proposed removing $250,000 in funding that Soglin included in his 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.

While Eskrich said she supports developing a public health approach to violence, she thinks the time needed to prepare for the start of that work, including hiring staff and developing community partnerships, will take all of next year.

“We don't believe it’s realistic that that funding will be allocated in 2018,” Eskrich said.

Public Health Director Janel Heinrich said the goal of the violence prevention effort would be to have the department serve as a “convener of multiple partners.” The initiative would also focus on collecting data to identify the scope and scale of violence taking place in Madison.

Under Soglin’s proposal, the full cost of the program would be funded by the city and not shared with Dane County, according to the mayor’s budget proposal — another problem for Eskrich.

“I just do not believe it is the right precedent to put city only funds into the joint public health department,” Eskrich said.

Overall, Eskrich said the amendments articulate the priorities of the City Council, including racial equity, social justice and environmental sustainability, and are consistent with the city’s strategy planning and goals.

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One amendment, sponsored by Ald. Barbara Harrington-McKinney, District 1, would add $100,000 to the Department of Civil Rights to support Racial Equity and Social Justice staffing and training.

Another amendment would add a full time staff position, $95,000 including benefits, dedicated to environmental sustainability. This person would implement the city’s 100 percent renewable energy zero and net zero carbon goals and assist the Sustainable Madison Committee.

Ald. David Ahrens, District 15, is sponsoring an amendment that would reduce the travel and training budget within the mayor’s office from $57,000 to $27,000. Ahrens has called the mayor’s travel budget an “extravagance.”

In 2016, Soglin took 21 trips out of state totaling 61 days, with some falling on the weekends. The total cost to the city for Soglin's trips was about $20,004.

A Cap Times review of Soglin's 2015 travel schedule showed that he averaged about 21 trips per year over the past four years compared to predecessor Dave Cieslewicz’s average of about five trips per year.

The Finance Committee is expected to vote on the operating budget amendments at its meeting Monday. The Council is scheduled to vote on the capital and operating budgets during the week of Nov. 13. 

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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.