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Mayor Paul Soglin (copy)

Mayor Paul Soglin introduced his $313.9 million operating budget proposal for 2018 at a press conference Tuesday. 

Following a violent summer that included 11 homicides, Mayor Paul Soglin is including funding in his proposed $313.9 million executive 2018 operating budget to address violence.

Soglin’s proposed budget, which he introduced at a press conference Tuesday, also adds $1.5 million to begin staffing the new Midtown Police Station and a fire station on the southeast side.

“The 2018 budget seeks to strike a balance between the significant costs to staff new public safety facilities, broad-based investments needed to combat the root causes of violence, and keeping city services affordable,” Soglin said.

The public health-based violence prevention effort calls for $250,000 and, in addition, would reallocate two empty positions in the Public Health division to address the root causes of violence. One position would collect and analyze data, while the second management position would develop the department’s program for dealing with trauma and how it relates to violence.

In last year’s budget, Soglin included $400,000 for peer support programs to address violence as the first step of the Focused Interruption Coalition’s 15-point plan. Over the summer, the city and a nonprofit finalized a $50,000 contract to implement a short-term plan of offering peer support and connection to services. The remaining balance of the original funding would support a long-term program addressing violence prevention.

This year, the mayor included $250,000 to expand peer support efforts to address violence before it occurs, though he said he would have liked to include more.

“I wish it could have been $450,000,” Soglin said.

Additionally, the budget includes $350,000 to match federal grant dollars to add 15 more police officers, $50,000 for a Mental Health sergeant and $50,000 to purchase smartphones for police officers in the field to improve the use of data in decision-making.

To assist crime reduction efforts on State Street, the mayor added $10,000 to support the Downtown Business Improvement District programming and to review liquor license and mall maintenance fees.

The budget would also continue the five-year phase-in of $15 minimum wage for all city jobs by adding $80,000 in new funding to the previous $80,000 included in the 2017 budget.

The proposed budget increases the general fund by 4.3 percent and increases the levy by 4.8 percent. Taxes on the average home are expected to increase 2.7 percent, or $65. Though the city could still increase tax collections by $700,000 before hitting levy limits imposed by the state, Soglin called on the City Council to keep tax increases to a minimum and not exceed 2.8 percent.

“Carrying this levy authority over to 2019 will help us maintain a more modest tax increase this year while providing additional capacity to address ongoing priorities next year, particularly the Council’s current priorities of constructing and staffing a new fire station next year,” Soglin said.

In response to the state eliminating domestic partner benefits, Soglin added $250,000 from the property tax to address the health insurance coverage gap for domestic partners. The state’s decision would save an estimated $6.8 million.

The mayor also discontinued Metro Transit-operated paratransit services due to the loss of $3.9 million in federal Medicaid funding associated with implementing family care in Dane County.

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“We are doing what we can through our strategic management initiatives to ensure the outcomes our residents want,” Soglin said. “However, our tools are limited and our time is short.”

Proposed changes to address the budget shortfall include:

  • Fares for all paratransit rides increase to $4 per trip. (Companions also required to pay $4 fare. Personal care attendants continue to ride for free.)
  • Cash fares only. Elimination of paratransit convenience tickets (except for agency contracted rides).
  • Transition to “curb-to-curb” service only. “Door-to-door” service becomes available only as necessary due to a disability. Each rider will be evaluated to make this determination.
  • Elimination of “leave attended” ride options.

Metro Transit and the city’s Transit and Parking Commission will hold a public hearing at the Madison Central Library, 201 W. Mifflin St., in room 302 at 6 p.m. to discuss the changes to paratransit service.

As a budget balancing measure, Soglin’s proposal would increase the room tax rate from 9 to 10 percent in 2018, generating $1.8 million per year and bringing the total room tax fund to $18.1 million. The increase in the room tax rate would provide $1.2 million to help close the 2018 budget gap.

The increase would mean an additional $1.3 million could be used for tourism-related spending, such as Monona Terrace, Overture Center and the Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau. The City Council would need to approve the rate increase, and the city’s contract with the Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau would need to be amended.

Madison’s Finance Committee will consider the proposed operating budget this month, and the City Council will vote on the capital and operating budgets 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.