Soglin: City budget has ‘modest’ increase in property tax

Soglin: City budget has ‘modest’ increase in property tax
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin unveiled the city's operating budget at a news conference in downtown Madison Tuesday afternoon.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin unveiled his budget plan for 2016 that includes a property tax increase of $66 for the average home, and is 1.1 percent below the levy limit allowed.

At a news conference at the mayor’s office in downtown Madison Tuesday morning, Soglin said the approximately $289 million  budget would be funded with $209 million from property tax.

Soglin said Madison is one of leading cities in the United States in terms of deriving revenue from property tax, calling the 2.9 percent increase “modest.” The budget requires a 2.9-percent increase, which is about $66, on the average home for the city’s portion of levy.

“My goal was to have an increase no greater than 2.3 percent,” Soglin said. “But the cost of continuing operations and the demands for basic services is such that we’re going to have to accept 2.9 percent. Unless we’re prepared to make essential cuts in what I consider to be essential programs.”

The mayor highlighted a few elements of the 2016 budget, including funds for:

Operation of the Teresa Terrace Neighborhood Center and Meadowood Neighborhood Center
The Housing First Street team for housing and support services for homeless Expansion of youth internship program Working on a solar installation training program through engineering Enhanced safety, 12 new police commissioned staff (created in 2015 budget with one-time revenues) An information tech security position Basic services for recycling, trash, snow and ice control

Soglin said contractually required 3-percent pay increases for city police, fire and Metro Transit employees and a 2.25 percent increase for other city workers was one of the challenges in balancing the 2016 budget.

Ambulance fees for residents will rise from $900 to $1,000 and towing fees will go up from $50 to $65.

Soglin said state-mandated levy limits would allow the city to increase property taxes up to 4 percent, or about $90 on the average home, but he limited the increase to $66 and asked the council to hold that line. He said he wants to ease the blow on property owners and the limited increase better prepares for obligatory spending in 2017 and future budgets.

“I know it will be very tempting to fund so many different ideas and projects, all of which I’m sure are solid, but we are going to have to balance that desire with the impact on the future,” Soglin said. “Which, unfortunately in prior years and decades, the city council has not been inclined to do.”

Soglin also said Madison Metro bus fares were not expected to increase in 2016.

The city council will consider Sgolin’s proposal in November.