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Dane County budget goes to Joe Parisi: Board passes $853 million package

City-County Building

The Dane County Board has sent its 2023 budget to County Executive Joe Parisi’s desk, including in the record-setting plan the county’s own investments in housing, a new elections center and criminal justice reform.

If signed in full by County Executive Joe Parisi, the record $853 million budget would raise the property tax on the average Madison home by $40.51.

County employees would see roughly a 9% raise under the budget, which adds 80 new full-time employees.

Before full passage of the budget at a meeting Wednesday night, supervisors lauded the budget’s expansion of a crisis response program at the Dane County Sheriff’s Office, out-of-state travel reimbursements for county staff for abortion services, millions for affordable housing and a new plan for the long-stalled jail project, among other items.

“This budget responds to really critical needs related to food insecurity, related to housing insecurity and homelessness,” said Sup. Heidi Wegleitner, 2nd District.

Of the budget’s capital spending, the biggest new expense is $16 million for a new elections center that would relocate the Dane County Clerk’s Office, currently Downtown, to a new site.

Parisi set aside $12 million in his budget proposal for the center, and the board tacked on an additional $4 million.

The current Dane County and Madison city clerks’ offices lack access control, video surveillance and physical barriers to protect against intruders who might want to harm staff or equipment, according to a task force report on Dane County election security released in July.

The new facility would offer a secure location to store election equipment and ballots. A site near other county buildings on the Far East Side off Highway 18 is being considered for the center, though that is far from being finalized.

Other capital spending added to the budget by the board includes $1.5 million to help Madison close a funding gap for the Madison Public Market on the city’s East Side. The county’s part of the funding is contingent on the City Council providing $4 million. A group of City Council members plan to introduce a budget amendment for the funding. The City Council begins budget talks next week.

An additional $350,000 in the county’s budget will hire a consultant for the Alliant Energy Center redevelopment project and a market analysis for the expo.

Yet even leaving budget talks, the most contentious issue on the board remains another scaling back of the Dane County jail consolidation project.

In its operating budget, the board reduced the planned facility to five stories from six, tying it to $500,000 to fund criminal justice reforms it hopes will reduce the jail’s overall population in the long term.

On Monday and Wednesday, supervisors called on Parisi to veto the new jail plan.

“We’re left again at an impasse on the jail issue. We in my view failed to solve the problem in this budget,” said Sup. Tim Kiefer, who pointed to continuing divisions on the board regarding the jail and opposition to the new plan by Sheriff Kalvin Barrett.

Other criminal justice reform and related spending includes:

  • $359,000 to secure hotel housing for people who are eligible for jail diversion programs but can’t access them due to lack of housing.
  • An expansion of the Sheriff’s Office crisis response program.
  • A new Department of Justice Reform and Equity.
  • $1.3 million to support ongoing planning for a 24/7 mental health treatment center.

During talks, one budget amendment sought to eliminate two sheriff’s deputy positions to fund two new staffers for expanding a crisis response program at the Sheriff’s Office. The board instead opted to keep the deputy positions and fund the new crisis response staffers by cutting funding for sending inmates to other counties due to unsafe conditions at the City-County Building jail.

The board passed a tax levy of $2.68 for every $1,000 of property value. That adds about $40 in taxes for the average home in Madison due to rising home values. The average Madison residence will be valued at $376,900 in 2023.

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