Madison City Council members are seeking final changes to operating and capital budgets for 2018, with key decisions on funding more police, trying police body cameras, and what Mayor Paul Soglin sees as a poison pill for the Madison Public Market.
“Some of these would severely hamper progress we’ve made on various economic and social goals,” Soglin said Friday.
Two competing proposals will determine how the city provides matching funds for a possible $1.87 million federal grant to add 15 police officers.
Soglin’s original budget provides a $350,000 match. But Ald. Paul Skidmore, 9th District, is seeking an additional $400,000, and Ald. Rebecca Kemble, 18th District, is proposing to shift the $350,000 in the mayor’s budget to the contingent reserve.
Also, Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, 5th District, is proposing to delete $123,000 for about 47 police body cameras and related costs for a pilot program likely in the Police Department’s North District.
Bidar-Sielaff is also seeking to reduce funding for a new violence prevention program proposed by Soglin from $250,000 to $10,000, and to direct $150,000 of the savings to youth and adult employment programs.
Ald. David Ahrens, 15th District, is proposing to replace $3 million of the local share of funding for the public market and increase unidentified federal funding by that amount, which Soglin said will effectively kill the project because that level of federal funding can’t be expected in a Trump administration.
Those proposals are among 19 amendments to be considered by the council as it takes final actions Monday and perhaps Tuesday on the city’s operating and capital budgets for next year.
Council President Marsha Rummel said she expects police staffing and the public market to be the hottest debates next week.
The amendment proposals also include one from Kemble to use $835,000 in state and federal funding to maintain Metro Transit paratransit fares and services at current levels through the first part of 2018.
Another proposal from Ald. Barbara Harrington-McKinney, 1st District, would add $400,000 for a total $1.6 million to close a funding gap and proceed with the construction of an employment center at the former Griff’s restaurant, 1233 McKenna Blvd.
In early September, Soglin proposed a $326 million capital budget that required $152 million in borrowing. The Finance Committee later added $6.5 million in spending and $4.7 million more in borrowing.
On Oct. 3, the mayor offered an operating budget that would increase spending 4.5 percent to $313.9 million and raise tax collections from all property by 4.8 percent to $230.3 million. Late last month, the Finance Committee added about $391,000 to bring spending to $314.3 million, while increasing tax collections 4.9 percent to $230.6 million.
Now, Skidmore and six others are again proposing to add $400,000 in a bid to add 15 police officers with the help of a federal community police hiring grant, which has not yet been secured.
The $350,000 in Soglin’s budget could be used to add three officers without the grant and, if the grant is received, would be enough to initially hire seven officers and phase in the rest over the next two or three years, city finance director David Schmiedicke said.
Under Skidmore’s amendment, the city could add six or seven officers without the grant and, if it is received, add all 15 in the first year, Schmiedicke said. A similar amendment before the Finance Committee deadlocked on a 3-3 vote.
Meanwhile, Kemble and four others want to shift Soglin’s $350,000 for the officers to the contingent reserve, which would provide no new funds in the Police Department’s budget for police officers and require a budget amendment with a supermajority vote to access funds in the contingent reserve whether the grant is secured or not.
Soglin said that notice from the federal government on the federal grant seems imminent and that he wants the latest information on a best course of action before taking a position on those amendments.
The city has been exploring police body cameras for the last few years but canceled funding for a pilot program after a committee recommended against trying them. That committee’s work, however, led to an effort to study police policies and procedures, with a final report expected by the end of this year.
Soglin’s budget included no money for body cameras, but the Finance Committee added $123,000 for a pilot effort in one police district. Bidar-Sielaff’s amendment would eliminate funds for the pilot. The mayor supports keeping the pilot program.
Bidar-Sielaff and four others also want to cut $240,000 of the $250,000 in the mayor’s budget for a new initiative that would reallocate vacant positions and use the new funding to create a public health-style, data-based approach to addressing causes of and solutions to violence that has plagued the city.
The amendment would direct $150,000 of the savings to youth and adult employment contracts for a total of $1.38 million.
Soglin’s initiative is intended to build on a new peer-support approach in which people, preferably those who have gone through similar experiences, are trained to provide support to those involved in incidents of violence or people leaving incarceration.
In his proposed budget, Soglin altered some of the funding streams for the $11.8 million public market, adding $3 million more in city funding and requiring $5.5 million from federal sources and private contributions.
Ahrens’ amendment eliminates the new $3 million in city funds and replaces it with $3 million in unidentified federal money.
As the council prepares to make final budget decisions, recent new estimates have decreased the city’s tax base, meaning taxes on the average home already will be higher than initially thought.
Based on the Finance Committee’s budget, decreases in the tax base will result in an $87.78 increase in the city tax bill for the average home over the current year, or about 3.6 percent, for a total bill of $2,505.29 in 2018. That’s $12.08 higher than expected. The average home is valued at $269,377.
Next week, the council could still increase tax collections by about $457,000, or up to about 3.8 percent on the average home, before hitting state-mandated levy limits, Schmiedicke said.