In her annual capital budget memo to agency heads, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said creativity and innovation continue to be necessary as the city crafts its 2022 budget and looks toward recovery after the coronavirus pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused unprecedented fiscal effects, including an estimated $67 million in lost revenue and reductions in critical fund balances. Rhodes-Conway said the city needs to think strategically about capital investments even with the influx of federal pandemic recovery aid.
“Our hope is that the city is returning toward normalcy after a challenging year, and we must use this opportunity to leverage lessons learned in the pandemic to improve the way we serve city residents and revitalize the city we love,” Rhodes-Conway said in the April 13 memo made public on the city’s budget website last week.
Rhodes-Conway said in the memo the city should prioritize ongoing challenges that include housing affordability, transit access and resiliency in response to climate change through the lens of how institutionalized racism.
“If we learned anything from 2020, it’s that challenges posed by racism are every bit as daunting as those created by the global health crisis from which we are only beginning to emerge,” Rhodes-Conway said.
With these challenges in mind, Rhodes-Conway gave the following directions to department and division heads:
• Find ways to decrease spending in the 2022 Capital Budget that won’t “unduly impact our ability to provide essential services.”
• Prioritize requests.
• Answer equity questions about each project and program offered.
• Requests for existing projects should be consistent with the adopted 2021 Capital Improvement Plan. Any increases need to be justified and explained.
• Requests for new projects can be submitted but need to be planned enough that a complete budget proposal can be submitted.
• Budget requests for projects on the Horizon List can be submitted as long as a complete budget submission can be developed.
• Projects can be added to the Horizon List if the project is coming up in the next five years in the Capital Improvement Plan and meets certain requirements.
• Program budgets should continue into 2027 and can be adjusted by up to 5% to account for inflationary construction costs.
Rhodes-Conway said maintaining the status quo is not a “sufficient justification for capital investment” and that she would be “aggressive” in offering reductions to ensure a "responsible" level of debt service in the operating budget.
“Budget proposals should be focused on the investments we are making in our community and neighborhoods as we want to see them in the future rather than focusing on how we preserve the current state or return to pre-pandemic conditions,” Rhodes-Conway said in the memo.
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