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Madison police expect budget gap without school contract

Madison police expect budget gap without school contract

BNR | SRO Franco (copy) (copy)

Madison Police Department officer Zulma Franco, a Student Resource Officer at Madison East High School, works during her shift at the school.

The Madison Police Department could be facing a budget shortfall in the absence of over $300,000 in revenue from the Madison Metropolitan School District for school resource officers.

This loss in revenue comes as the city is facing estimated budget gaps of $30 million in 2020 and $20 million in 2021, which are driven by the economic crisis caused by the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic.  

“This change is an additional budget stress along with the economic impacts associated with the public health emergency declared in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” city Finance Director David Schmiedicke said in an email. 

On June 29, the Madison School Board voted to end its relationship with the MPD immediately by terminating its contract for four school resource officers. Under the contract, which was previously scheduled to run through the 2021-22 school year, MMSD would pay MPD more than $366,000 annually for the officers. 

Madison’s City Council is expected to act on a corresponding resolution, introduced at Tuesday's meeting, later this month. With over half the City Council and Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway sponsoring the resolution, it is likely to pass.

The four officers stationed in schools have been reassigned to patrol duties. Acting Chief Vic Wahl said in an emailed statement that he expects them to remain on patrol through the end of the year. 

“The individual SROs will have the opportunity to compete for other positions or select their 2021 assignment along with other patrol officers,” Wahl said. “The operating budget won't be finalized until November, and that will determine what happens with the actual positions."

[Like MMSD, districts around the country planning for fall following votes to end police in schools]

Budget challenges

The MPD’s 2020 operating budget includes $360,000 in revenue from MMSD for the officers stationed at the city’s four high schools. So far this year, the MPD has received $158,310, leaving a budget gap of $201,690 on that contract alone.    

Due to the budgetary effects of COVID-19 and costs associated with policing the protests over the past several weeks, the MPD will likely need additional funding to cover the gaps, according to the fiscal note on the City Council resolution to end the contract. 

Schmiedicke said addressing the effects of the pandemic crisis on the local economy, which are led by a “dramatic” reduction in room taxes transferred to the general fund, will require using the city’s “rainy day fund” to replace lost revenues and maintain city services. 

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Though the mayor’s administrative actions to reduce spending, including a hiring freeze, will help reduce the overall effect on the general fund balance, Schmiedicke said federal funding would be beneficial. 

“Direct budget stabilization funding from the federal government would also be of great help in offsetting the economic impacts of the pandemic on the city's budget and the local economy,” Schmiedicke said. 

The loss of MMSD funding and other fiscal concerns will be evaluated later this year, and a budget amendment could be brought to the City Council based on third and fourth quarter budget projections, according to the fiscal note. 

“The exact approach will become clearer over the next few weeks and months,” Schmiedicke said. 

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