Mayor Paul Soglin unveiled his 2014 operating budget Tuesday, with significant investment in community services, cuts to Metro transit, and a smaller-than-scheduled raise for city employees.
The budget totals $275.2 million, an $8 million increase from the 2013 operations budget. Soglin’s proposal calls for a nearly 1.5 percent property tax increase, costing the average Madison homeowner an additional $32 a year.
The city’s library fund will increase 4 percent under the mayor’s budget, bringing those expenses to $14.4 million. Soglin said that spending line should start to level out once the new library additions are fully up and running.
Soglin listed a number of investments in community services, a number of them strengthening support of and ties to nonprofit organizations.
For instance, Soglin looks to put $192,000 toward an Emerging Opportunities Program to fund what the city considers “critical community support needs.” He pitched another $160,000 to pay for youth positions at city library branches as part of an Out of School Time initiative. Soglin would also like to see $120,000 supporting the YWCA Transit for Jobs program.
Soglin outlined a dozen similar initiatives in his operating budget, in total putting more than $1.2 million toward community-based resources.
“We need greater alignment in those five critical areas: quality child care, health, care, transportation, housing, and education and job training component,” Soglin said. “And so I'm hoping we can go into this area, work with our nonprofit partners and get some outcomes that really get our funds focused to significantly changing people's lives.”
Soglin said the city has higher than expected excess in reserves built up, thanks to an revenue from building permits. While he said he doesn’t like to use those funds if at all possible, Soglin said he plans to dip into those reserves to pay for studies related to funding and working with nonprofit organizations and next year’s elections.
In this budget, police will receive an additional $345,000 or so to restore a crossing guard program and form a partnership with Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS).
The fire department is slated for nearly $167,000 for a new assistant fire chief and almost $475,000 to keep current positions in line with the SAFER grant.
Metro faces a $292,000 cut to its fuel budget. Soglin said with decreasing federal and state aid for public transit, the city could either support route expansions or continue paying for the rising cost of fuel.
“We were faced with a tough choice in regards to continuing Metro services of curtailing them. Metro will be asked to make some adjustments,” Soglin said, “but it reflects the largest single percentage expenditure in the budget over the last four years, and that is critical to households with limited incomes.”
Madison Metro general manager Chuck Kamp said the system will run as if gas costs $2.77. To make up for the difference, Metro is considering charging more for certain bus passes.
“We're not going to recommend a general across the board fare increase, but we're going to look at targeted fare increases which might help us, in this case, in the event we need more budgeting for diesel fuel,” Kamp said.
In addition, Soglin budgeted in a 2.1% raise for a number of city workers, a pay increase originally scheduled to be 3 percent.
Soglin noted Overture Center investments were comparable to other city agencies, totaling $1.5 million for 2014. He mentioned the center’s director considered that satisfactory, but some councilors would like to increase that spending as much as $150,000.
Soglin was hopeful for significant increases in property taxes in the coming years, saying by 2016, the permits now issued will be buildings shelling out to the city. While he said that will help him keep reserves intact, Soglin said it won’t cover everything.
“Let's not get our hopes too high. It's not going to be able to in any way cover the loss of state aids, the loss of transit funding, and the growing low-income population in the city of Madison,” Soglin said.
Soglin presented the budget to common council Tuesday night. Alders are slated to revisit the operating budget later this month.