City-County Building

The Madison Finance Committee on Monday backed more funding for the homeless and human services in next year’s operating budget, along with modest staffing changes to the city’s fire and police departments.

Committee members adopted 19 of 33 amendments to Mayor Paul Soglin’s $332 million proposed 2019 operating budget. Early in the evening, though, concerns were raised about what should be prioritized as the costs of the proposed amendments far outweighed the city’s ability to fund them under state-imposed revenue limits.

“A vote against an amendment is not necessarily a vote against a concept,” said Ald. Larry Palm. “It’s just the strict function that we don’t have enough money to support everything in this budget.”

Among the changes was an additional $50,000 for the homeless day resource center The Beacon that would increase the city’s annual commitment next year to $200,000.

Nonprofit Legal Action of Wisconsin would also receive a significant bump in city funding from $25,000 to $170,000 to provide legal services to low-income residents facing eviction next year.

The committee also supported adding one patrol officer to the Madison Police Department in 2019 and creating a civilian human resources manager position so that a police lieutenant currently overseeing that work can focus on ways to combat human trafficking.

Earlier this month, Soglin proposed an executive operating budget that would increase city spending by 5.5 percent and add $72.11 in city taxes to the average home’s bill. Ultimately, the amendments adopted Monday kept the budget at about $332 million and would raise property taxes on the average home by $73.

The typical home in Madison, worth $284,868, would have a city property tax bill of about $2,583 under the amended operating budget.

Under the executive budget, there was about $457,000 in property taxes that could be generated before the city would hit the revenue limit. The changes made by the committee leave about $16,000 in available property tax revenue.

A $658,350 bid to add an ambulance and nine firefighter/paramedics to staff it at the Fire Department’s Station 14 on the Southeast Side ultimately was reduced to an additional $103,000 to pay for always having a paramedic on the station’s fire engine.

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In his executive budget, Soglin included a new detective position and the promotion of an officer to detective sergeant for the Special Victims Unit, with the goal of enhancing efforts to combat sex trafficking and crimes against children. The Finance Committee approved one new patrol officer for the 2019 recruiting class to make up for the officer that would be promoted to the Special Victims Unit.

In his budget request, Police Chief Mike Koval asked for six more patrol officers but called an increase in staffing to the Special Victims Unit his “top priority.”

“We are behind the learning curve when it comes to human trafficking,” Koval said Monday.

The Finance Committee also approved $26,000 to operate a proposed body-worn camera pilot program in the Police Department’s North District in 2019.

Last month, Finance Committee members voted 4-2 to add $104,000 to the 2019 capital budget to purchase 47 body cameras and associated equipment for the pilot program.

The pilot program could not start until the City Council puts policies in place to regulate the technology.

Overall, Soglin offered an operating budget that continues a focus on upward economic mobility and safety. It would send an extra $300,000 to peer support programs targeted at helping those caught in cycles of violence, bringing the total funding for that effort to $700,000.

Soglin also proposed $1.1 million for a training academy to deal with increased turnover amid retirements in the Police Department and added $299,000 for police overtime. Additionally, the executive budget bumps up investments in some neighborhood centers and social programs.

Changes made by the Finance Committee to the 2019 capital budget last month increased it to $341.6 million, up from the $336.6 million executive capital budget Soglin released in September.

The full City Council will be able to propose more changes to the 2019 capital and operating budgets when it’s scheduled to adopt them the week of Nov. 13.

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