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Flooding sandbag sendoff

City of Madison workers pick up sandbags from homes along Spaight Street on the Near East Side as curbside collection began in late October. City Council members are proposing to add $5.7 million for flood mitigation efforts in the 2019 budget.

With scant financial wiggle room, Madison City Council members are seeking final changes to operating and capital budgets for 2019, with key decisions coming on spending for peer support to address violence, police body cameras and $5.7 million more for flood mitigation.

Starting Tuesday evening, the council will consider a total of 18 amendments. The proposals, however, include just one big-ticket item — the new funds in the capital budget for flood mitigation in the wake of severe flooding in the late summer — with others largely redirecting funds, adding small sums, or cutting spending in Mayor Paul Soglin’s proposed budgets and the city Finance Committee’s amended plans.

Next week, the council can increase tax collections by only about $16,000 before hitting the state-mandated levy limits, said David Schmiedicke, city finance director. But it can approve more for flood mitigation because capital borrowing is not covered by the levy limit.

On the operating side, “they have little capacity for new items,” Schmiedicke said. In the capital budget, outside of flood mitigation, there are no big proposals because there are already a number of big projects underway or envisioned, he said.

Soglin, who is out of state, could not be reached for comment.

After torrential rains and flooding in August, Ald. Arvina Martin, 11th District, and four others, want to add $5.7 million to the Stormwater Utility to support citywide flood mitigation.

The funding, 20 times the amount for 2018, would include $775,000 for watershed, flood and planning studies, $1.17 million for land acquisition, and $5 million for public works projects that resulted from the late summer floods.

The money would include $5.15 million in borrowing, $620,000 from impact fees, and transferring $1 million from a project to remove phosphates from stormwater. If approved, the city’s budget for flood mitigation would rise to $7.7 million.

Continuing a long-running spat, Ald. Amanda Hall, 3rd District, and seven others are proposing to remove $104,000 in the capital budget added by the Finance Committee to buy 47 police body-worn cameras for a pilot project in the Police Department’s North District.

In a related amendment, Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, 5th District, and seven others are proposing to remove $26,000 added by the Finance Committee to fund police overtime for processing video and camera system maintenance for the pilot program.

Several council members are offering various ways to redistribute part of Soglin’s proposed $300,000 increase for peer support.

Soglin wants to continue funding $400,000 for peer-support efforts to help those caught up in cycles of violence, and add $300,000 — a 75 percent increase — for additional peer support that would proactively reach into neighborhoods.

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Peer-support specialists, who typically have gone through similar experiences as those they are seeking to help, are trained and provide support to those involved in incidents of violence or leaving incarceration. Soglin’s proposal would add more specialists to make contact with residents and help deal with individual needs, such as employment or housing, before violence occurs.

Ald. Rebecca Kemble, 18th District, and two others want to cut $150,000 of the $300,000 for violence-prevention peer-support contracts and direct the remaining $150,000 to case management contracts and increase the number of hours for direct peer support.

With dollars so tight, some amendments rely on Kemble’s $150,000 cut to pay for other things.

Bidar-Sielaff and seven others would add $57,000 to fund full-year contracts for community building and engagement with Centro-Hispano and the Lussier Community Education Center. The Finance Committee had approved spending for a half-year of activities. The proposed amendment would raise funding for all community building and engagement contracts from $107,000 in Soglin’s budget to $221,000, a 107 percent increase.

Ald. Marsha Rummel, 6th District, and two others would use $50,000 from Kemble’s proposed decrease and reduce the Information Technology budget by $50,000 — effectively freezing a citywide public information officer position for all of 2019 — to deliver $100,000 to hire a consultant to do a comprehensive audit of the Human Resources Department.

Independent of Kemble’s proposal, Ald. Barbara Harrington-McKinney, 1st District, would transfer $250,000 from peer support/violence prevention to increase funding for neighborhood centers. Soglin had proposed $997,444 in neighborhood-center support, a 13 percent increase from 2018, and Harrington-McKinney’s amendment would boost funding to $1.25 million, a 41 percent rise from last year.

In early September, Soglin offered a $336.6 million capital budget that offered modest funding for new construction and put an emphasis on planning.

The Finance Committee made a series of changes, including money for the pilot police body-camera program, pushing the capital budget to $341.6 million. The committee’s changes increased borrowing from Soglin’s initial $177.5 million to $180 million.

On Oct. 3, the mayor proposed a $332 million operating budget that he said puts a continued focus on upward economic mobility and safety.

The Finance Committee added more money for the homeless and human services and made modest changes to the Police and Fire departments, keeping spending at about $332 million.

Under the Finance Committee amendments, city taxes would increase about $73, or about 2.9 percent, to $2,583, for the average value home, now valued at $284,868.

The council’s coming deliberations could run from Tuesday through Thursday.

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