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City Council approves $4.5 million more for Madison Public Market, boosts council pay

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Madison Public Market - rendering

The City Council on Wednesday voted 17-3 to deliver up to $4.5 million in addition tax incremental financing (TIF) support to help close a financing gap for the $20 million Madison Public Market.

After vigorous debate, the City Council late Wednesday overwhelmingly approved up to $4.5 million to help close a financing gap and advance the long-awaited, $20 million Madison Public Market on the East Side.

The council, on the second long night of deliberations on Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway's proposed capital and operating budgets for 2023, also passed a proposal to increase council pay from $14,904 to $20,604, plus premiums for council leadership, in April 2023.

But the council refused a bid to remove $94,902 from the Police Department's budget and $277,069 from its grant fund budget for a federal COPS grant to help hire six new officers for its community outreach section and give the $94,902 to Public Health Madison and Dane County to support violence prevention.

As usual, the vast majority of the mayor's initial proposals remained intact with a final unanimous vote to pass the budget and property tax levy coming at 12:49 a.m. on Thursday.

"This budget puts our money where our values are, building a better Madison that will be strong and resilient for years to come," Rhodes-Conway said. "I thank the City Council for unanimously adopting the budget.”

All told, the $382,3 million operating budget expands the Community Alternative Response Emergency Services program, or CARES, which responds to 911 calls for behavioral health emergencies; provides more services in Public Health Madison and Dane County's reproductive health clinic; envisions a new program to help lower-income households reduce the cost of city service bills and special charges; and invests more in programs for young people.

It delivers $2 million in federal funds for homeless shelter operations and $2 million from the general fund for seed money to support a private-public shelter operations endowment for the future.

The budget also provides a staggered, 3% wage hike for roughly 1,400 permanent employees not in the police, fire or bus driver unions. It uses several one-time funding streams to support spending increases, including $3.4 million from surplus employee insurance reserves fort a $1,000 payment to employees.

Overall, the operating budget increases spending by 6.1% - the most since 2009 - to $382.3 million, and raises tax collections by 5.6% to $273.7 million. City property taxes on the average home, now valued at $376,900, would increase by 4.1%, or $115.53, to $2,903.86.

The $376.5 million capital budget will build bus rapid transit, an "Imagination Center" at Reindahl Park and support lower-cost housing. It also provides money to help eligible people buy and rehab homes, supports homeownership through down-payment assistance, and continues funding for flood mitigation and to address climate change.

The budget raises the city's Affordable Housing Fund from $7 million in 2022 to $10 million in 2023, and delivers another $3 million for the $21 million permanent men's homeless shelter to be built at 1902 Bartillon Drive on the Far East Side. 

The capital budget, a 6.3% increase over 2022, includes $187.3 million in borrowing.

Advancing the Public Market

The council's 17-3 vote for an additional $4.5 million in TIF funding for the Public Market is the biggest increase in city spending to the mayor's capital and operating budgets for next year. 

The council struggled over a desire to back a Public Market offering opportunity for a diverse set of vendors as well as a dynamic venue to benefit the community amid concerns about future asks for construction or operations and losing opportunities to fund other things.

Under plans, the city would convert its former two-story, 45,000-square-foot Fleet Services building at 200 N. First St. into a community destination featuring a diverse group of entrepreneurs offering fresh produce, culturally diverse prepared food, locally made food, and arts and crafts. 

The market is also to include a Food Innovation Center that would be a flexible small manufacturing venue with services and equipment to boost small entrepreneurs and minority-owned enterprises. The city would own the property while the nonprofit Public Market Foundation would operate it.

To finance it, the city intended to use $7 million in TIF, $849,000 in city funds, $3 million in private donations, a $3.4 million federal grant, and $4 million from a state program using federal COVID-19 relief funds. But In late August, the city revealed that rising construction costs had added $1.8 million in costs and that it had to withdraw an application for the $3.4 million federal grant. 

Last week, the Dane County Board recently approved an amendment to the county's capital budget to borrow $1.5 million to help the city close the funding gap.

Initially, Ald. Syed Abbas and two others proposed using up to $6 million from a robust TIF district on the East Washington Avenue corridor to close the gap, but the council on Wednesday backed an option to deliver $4.5 million in TIF given the county's contribution and potential for other savings. 

The market will attract a diverse array of vendors, increase food access, provide economic impacts, and the council's decision "will determine our city values of where we stand on social justice and equity," Abbas said. "I see huge benefit for the city of Madison."

Council President Keith Furman and Alds. Erik Paulson and Bill Tishler voted no. "This is spiraling cost-wise," Furman said. "I'm incredibly afraid this will be another obligation the city will have to take care of."

After the vote, Rhodes-Conway said she agrees that the equity and empowerment aspects of the project are its most exciting feature and that "it is now up to the foundation to continue to prepare for next stages to ensure stable financing and a positive launch."

The TIF Joint Review Board of taxing entities must approve the additional TIF spending.

City Council pay

Currently, pay for council members is budgeted at $14,904 each for 2022, with the vice president making $16,078 and the president $18,135. The mayor's budgeted salary for 2022 is $157,548.

Although every council member handles the job a bit differently, the city has determined that members are assumed to work 1,082 hours annually, or about 20.8 hours a week. The last pay increase, of $4,400 annually, came in 2015.

Furman, the primary sponsor of an increase, on Wednesday offered a substitute that decreased the raise from what was previously proposed.

The substitute, approved by a 12-8 vote, will raise council member pay from $13.77 per hour, or $14,904 annually, to $19.04 per hour, or $20,604 a year. It will bump premiums to $20.54 an hour, or $22,226 annually, for the vice president and $23.17 an hour, or $25,071 annually, for the president.

The pay increase will also require a separate ordinance change requiring 15 of 20 votes.

More changes

On other big capital budget amendments, the council delivered $3.5 million more for improvements at a 24,000-square-foot grocery that's part of the $42 million, six-story housing project underway at 815 Cedar St., formerly 1402 S. Park St. And it provided $2.3 million from a proposed TIF district to support a $72.8 million project with 245 low-cost housing units, commercial space and parking at 3401 E. Washington Ave.

But the council voted 12-8 to reject an amendment to refuse the federal COPS grant to add six officers, which will expand the department's community outreach section.

The officers will be used to help provide mental health services to children exposed to violence; create youth programs; be a liaison between the department and communities; and support alternatives to custodial arrests, Chief Shon Barnes said.

"You never know who's going to touch your life and stay on a road of positivity," Ald. Sheri Carter said.

Furman said the COPS grant require a long-term financial commitment that will not help the city's projected long-term deficit. "I don't believe we should be adding six more officers," he said.

Many council members who opposed the COPS grant said tight resources can be better used in other ways to better serve children and families.

The council also:

  • Approved $225,000 for a culvert crossing and paved path at Manchester Park.
  • Denied $65,000 to buy 1,000, 31-day bus passes for low-income residents to be distributed by community organizations.
  • Approved $100,000 to add an additional team to the CARES program beyond the mayor's expansion during peak hours of 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays starting on Oct. 1.
  • Approved $65,160 for a Parks Division volunteer coordinator.
  • Approved $9,300 for a university student housing study.
  • Accepted a recent $30.9 million award from the U.S. Treasury Department to continue emergency rental assistance efforts.
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