The Dane County Board on Monday adopted the county’s 2019 operating and capital budgets that put more resources toward homeless services, mental health and flood prevention, and are expected to deliver a slight reduction in property taxes to some homeowners.
A little more than an hour into their meeting, board members unanimously approved the $558.6 million operating budget and the $71.5 million capital budget on the first of three nights the board had scheduled to discuss and debate the spending packages.
Sup. Patrick Miles, 34th District, told about 20 members of the public at the meeting that the swift pace of the 37-member body was not indicative of it being a “rubber stamp,” but said that most of the change and amendments to the budgets had been done in prior committee meetings.
“What can we say about this budget? It invests in success,” Miles said, specifically noting increases to human services programs and a 3.5 percent wage increase for county employees.
The operating budget adds the Monona Grove School District as the 11th district in a school-based mental health program and bumps up the county’s operating expenditures for the homeless day resource center The Beacon by about 40 percent to $239,000 next year.
The 2019 operating budget is 3.8 percent bigger than the 2018 operating budget. It will draw $184.6 million in property tax revenue, which is a 0.8 percent increase compared to this year’s budget.
Some homeowners, though, can expect a decrease in the county’s portion of their property tax bills. County taxes on the average-value Madison home worth $284,868 are expected to drop by $8.10 for a total bill of $846.45.
The decline in property taxes for some can be attributed to an increase in the total taxable property of Dane County, which surpassed Milwaukee County this year to become the county with the highest property value in Wisconsin.
The 2019 capital budget is 37.8 percent smaller than the 2018 capital spending package. The 2018 budget included $76 million for a major consolidation project that will affect the three facilities that make up the Dane County Jail.
As part of the capital budget, Dane County’s affordable housing fund will be doubled next year from $3 million to $6 million to help developers build housing for low-income residents, with the goal of 30 percent of the funds being spent outside of the city of Madison.
“It is really exciting to think about it, because everyday there are families and individuals who are struggling because they just don’t have the income to make ends meet, and they’re choosing between food and rent and heat,” said Sup. Heidi Wegleitner, 2nd District. “With more access to affordable housing, we can help to support those families and make them more likely to thrive.”
The capital budget also includes $3 million to improve the water flow in the Yahara River chain of lakes in the hopes of preventing future flooding following the late summer rains in Dane County that had several communities facing high water levels for weeks, in part due to the slow flow of water through the river and lakes.
In anticipation of planned changes to the state’s juvenile corrections system, the county is setting aside about $4 million in 2019 for the creation of a unit for youth convicted of crimes that would be added to the Juvenile Detention Center on the second floor of the City-County Building.