This is what the executive wants you to know, the county board will have to now dig into the details!
DATE: October 1, 2013
TO: John Hendrick, Chair Dane County Board of Supervisors
Members, Dane County Board of Supervisors
Elected Officials and Department Heads
FROM: Joe Parisi, Dane County Executive
RE: 2014 Dane County Budget
2014 Dane County Budget – - An Investment of Values
We have much to be proud of in Dane County. My 2014 County Budget builds upon the values we hold dear – - unrivaled investments in services for people, innovative new efforts to make our communities safer, and an enhanced focus on protecting our lakes and natural resources.
When preparation of this budget started this summer, our department heads were faced with a directive they hadn’t experienced in many years – prepare status quo budgets with no targeted reduction.
This unique experience came about for several reasons. County revenues severely impacted by the economic downtown of a few years ago have begun to rebound and we have projected those revenues conservatively to avoid year-end draws on our general reserve fund. Delinquent property taxes are down, sales tax collections and fees associated with renewed development are up. Projected at almost $19-million, our reserve is the highest it has ever been. This is due in part to our multi-year effort to “right size” budget line items, eliminating recurring deficits in certain departments. This budget addresses those primary remaining variances – - matching budgeted amounts with actual expenses and revenues to the tune of nearly $2-million.
The strength of our general reserve better positions Dane County for future uncertainty – - whether it be expanded budget cuts at the federal or state level or another slowing of our nation’s economy. The progress we made in just a couple short years resulted in Fitch’s Ratings lifting the negative outlook on our AA bond rating a couple of weeks ago. Our fiscal foundation is stronger and there’s every reason to believe at year end we will be even better prepared for whatever lies ahead. It’s imperative this fund continue to grow and not be drawn against so we can protect programs and services we hold so dear should “rainy days” return.
My Human Services budget totals $252.2 million – - nearly half of the total County Budget. This unparalleled investment in people builds upon our county’s commitment to ensuring all of our citizens have the opportunity to succeed – - regardless of socio-economic class or race.
The budget includes a brand-new innovative initiative to improve mental health services in our schools, an effort to help create a more stable learning environment for both our children and educators. I am building upon our existing partnerships with groups like the United Way to expand efforts to stabilize families and address the educational achievement gap in our most challenged neighborhoods, helping kids and families who struggle with maintaining secure housing, and restoring critical funding for services to those with developmental disabilities.
We take great care in Dane County to look out for our most vulnerable. That is why I am proud to announce that my budget completes the multi-year capital fundraising campaign by Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) to ensure construction of a new, desperately-needed domestic violence shelter is completed on time in 2014.
Dane County is home to more than 500,000 residents and is the fastest growing county in the state – yet we only have one shelter for survivors of domestic violence and their families. We have the smallest shelter per capita in all of Wisconsin and every night those beds are full. Despite these challenges, DAIS has continued to expand its programs and partnerships, serving thousands of women, children, and men with a six bedroom and two bathroom shelter.
Domestic violence has far-reaching affects on families, and communities. Children who witness domestic violence are far more likely as teenagers to be violent with their peers and dating partners, use alcohol and other drugs, run away from home, or become involved in gangs. In Dane County, one-third of all cases law enforcement refers to the District Attorney’s office are domestic violence related, but even more cases go unreported to local law enforcement.
Through a specific exception in Wisconsin State Statue, I am providing $2 million in capital dollars to DAIS so that more families can gain quick access to the refuge they need. Once complete, this new shelter will offer more than four times the space of the current shelter, with programming and resources survivors need to get their lives back on track and protect them from homelessness and further violence.
I want to acknowledge the powerful community effort that has raised a great portion of the considerable funds necessary to make this new shelter a reality. With the County’s investment, we have an incredible opportunity to make a difference where it matters most – it is one of my proudest accomplishments in the two-and-a-half years I’ve had the honor to serve as your County Executive.
The principal new initiative in my human services operating budget aims to address one of the greatest challenges facing our communities and schools – - mental illness. I am creating “Mental Health Rapid Response Teams” in two of our suburban school districts. Courtesy of a partnership with both the Verona and Sun Prairie School Districts which will provide space free of charge, this new effort will put teams of professionals in our schools to help de-escalate situations with students who suffer from mental illness – - situations that teachers and police are often times required, but not sufficiently trained to address or remedy. These teams will develop crisis plans and train staff on effective interventions with children and youth whose mental health behaviors interfere with learning. They will also work with law enforcement, health care providers and families to provide mental health support for students – - both in the classroom and at home.
Another noteworthy addition to my Human Services budget expands upon the successes we have seen with the “Early Childhood Zone” we created this year at Madison’s Leopold Elementary. In partnership with the United Way, these zones are making a direct impact in the lives of kids, aiding in their ability to succeed at both school and home. My budget includes $165,000 to serve the disadvantaged neighborhoods of Allied Drive and areas around Westside Elementary School in Sun Prairie. The United Way of Dane County is proposing to allocate another $185,000 in programs and services for this collaborative effort – - a true testament to what can be accomplished for the greater good when the public and private sectors maximize resources. Conversations are already underway about expanding this effort to additional schools in the coming years, should resources allow. Family by family, we are making a difference in lives of our young people, helping guide them on a path toward educational and life-long success. I am grateful to the United Way for their continued focus and partnership on this effort.
Our new Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) is one of our greatest successes. This budget builds upon that work by creating a new Elder Benefits Specialist position to ensure our seniors have timely access to services and information through the ADRC. Since last year, our Elder Benefits Program has seen a marked increase in the number of seniors needing services and this position will help meet that growing need. In addition, I am providing $15,000 for the OutReach LGBT Community Center to expand its services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender elders in our county. I am also including $16,578 in county money in this budget to back-fill a federal government budget cut that impacts our senior meal sites and an additional $40,000 to ensure our seniors continue to receive warm meals, served with smiling faces.
It’s important to note that federal sequestration and other state and federal budget reductions are impacting a number of our services. Community Aids that fund critical human services are slated to be cut more than $568,000 in the coming year – - a direct result of sequestration. The Department of Human Services had to account for more than $1.6 million total in outside funding reductions in preparing its budget for next year – - impressing upon us the need for continued ingenuity.
A $20,000 increase to Planned Parenthood of Dane County will fund expanded education efforts both in schools and across the community with the intended goal of reducing teen pregnancies. Bolstering Planned Parenthood’s prevention and outreach work will help reduce another barrier to our young people succeeding at school.
My budget adds dollars to our network of services for those with developmental disabilities (DD) – a total of $83,575,449 in 2014, $13,009,069 of which is county general purpose revenue. With 52 high school graduates coming onto existing caseloads and $561,842 in new monies needed to annualize the cost of this year’s graduates, the budget continues our commitment to the highest quality care to those with developmental disabilities. In addition to restoring $718,512 in DD services ($221,724 in county revenue) my budget also funds the Living Wage with $412,000 in new county dollars – - funds that offset an obligation that would otherwise be left to our providers – - many of whom care for those with disabilities.
Also expanded in the budget are services to help meet the housing needs of kids and families in our community. Consistent with other areas of my budget where focus is placed on creating atmospheres – - both at home and school – - for kids to thrive, so too is it important to be mindful of the challenges many young people face bouncing from apartments to rooms with relative or friends during the school year. Day to day uncertainty over where you’re sleeping – - or studying – - is not a recipe for success.
That’s why my budget includes $25,000 for a new “Youth Eviction Prevention” fund. These dollars will be administered by Dane County “Joining Forces for Families” and are intended for families with school aged children to help create a little more certainty – - during uncertain times. A newspaper series this summer cast light on the reality this challenge isn’t limited to our poorest or urban neighborhoods. It documented dozens of young people in the Oregon and Verona school districts who over the course of a school year found themselves going “home” to different places on multiple occasions. This is a challenge on which we can, and must do better.
City of Madison staff approached my administration late this summer with an innovative solution to address a variety of the challenges this community faces when it comes to access to affordable housing and better coordinated homeless services. With a Community Development Authority, the City is uniquely positioned to leverage outside financial resources and is moving forward on a potential development that could create hundreds of new affordable housing units. These challenges are shared – - so too should be the solutions. I am highly encouraged to see the City take this step forward and that’s why my capital budget includes $750,000 for the county to acquire the site for development of this collaborative project.
I am creating the position of “Senior Planner” in the Department of Planning & Development, charged with implementing the housing recommendations contained in the comprehensive plan and facilitating other housing and planning work. This position will be a resource to the county, city, and non-profits as we collaborate in the smartest ways possible to identify and maximize available affordable housing options. I am also restoring a proposed $95,000 cut to the Tenant Resource Center.
Another important component to reducing homelessness is the work we do with those who run into trouble with the law, prior to their release from jail. Often times these individuals complete their sentence and struggle re-entering the workforce. This can spiral into an inability to maintain a place to call home. My budget creates the position of “Re-Entry Coordinator” in the Department of Human Services – - an individual who will work with those in jail – - prior to their release – - to identify potential barriers to success and ways to help those incarcerated reintegrate into their families and communities.
The Boy and Girls Club of Dane County does extensive work with youth in our community, including programming and partnerships that help teens prepare for success in college. To support this effort, my budget also creates a new “Dane County Work Apprenticeship Program,” in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club, to help college students who have participated in Boys and Girls Club programming gain valuable job training and work experience in various parts of county government. Fostering these paid internship opportunities is a win-win that expands upon our existing commitment to engage youth with county government, and help expand a student’s professional horizons after graduation.
My budget continues long standing commitments to protecting the safety of our public including a groundbreaking new program to hold alcohol abuse offenders accountable and dollars to ensure the county is in a position to take the next steps to capitalize on significant operating efficiencies in our criminal justice system while improving the way we care for inmates with mental health and other special needs.
Our maximum security space in the City-County Building is approaching 60 years old and due to the design of its construction is operationally inefficient and outdated.
Jail space consultants hired this year have done a detailed analysis of our three existing facilities – - the City-County Building, Public Safety Building, and the Ferris Center. In the coming months they will complete a report suggesting smarter, more progressive ways to handle corrections in our county. These designs will allow for development of space to better serve our special needs jail populations – - those with mental health or other disabilities and others with medical conditions at the root cause of their criminal behavior. It will also foster development of enhanced inmate programming to reduce recidivism – - slowing the revolving door of repeat offenders who find themselves in jail either through addiction or other correctable behaviors.
This is an important moment – - we have an opportunity to construct a new facility or renovate existing space to meet our county’s needs for decades to come while potentially saving millions each year to our operating budget. Given the levy cap realities we face in the coming years, it’s important we pursue with enthusiasm responsible capital investments that allow us to realize substantial operating efficiencies while better enabling us to improve behavior and reduce crime.
With this budget, I am creating a program that’s the first of its kind in Wisconsin to step up enforcement on the scourge that alcohol abuse continues to have on our precious tax dollars, families, and community resources. Through new, intensive, daily alcohol testing for those with alcohol related offenses – - including drunk driving or domestic violence – - we will increase accountability for offenders and reduce recidivism of crimes committed while under the influence.
Under Dane County’s “Accountability 24-7,” we will set up testing sites next year where individuals out on bail for alcohol offenses will have to report twice a day for mandatory screening. Should they fail, they go to jail.
Those assigned by the courts to the daily testing must appear at a designated time and the person ordered to the testing must remit $4 a day ($2 per test) at time of test. We will start the program on a pilot basis next year and be able to test up to 100 individuals – - twice a day – - at a time. The program projects to be nearly self-sufficient and we will gauge its successes at year end to evaluate potential expansion for 2015. Safe Communities Coalition will coordinate implementation of the program and work with additional law enforcement partners early next year to get this effort up and running.
My total operating budget for the Dane County Sheriff’s Office in 2014 is nearly $68 million and continues an agreement between Sheriff Mahoney and myself to cap overtime expenses at 6.6% of total salaries. The budget includes other public safety improvements including the replacement of nearly 20 outdoor storm warning sirens and more than $1-million for acquisition of a new telephone system for the county’s Public Safety Communications (911) System.
I continue to believe our citizens would be better served by a more centralized 911 dispatch system. Dialogue I initiated over a year ago with communities in our county who maintain their own dispatch operations advanced this year – - and I am hopeful we will achieve smart consolidations in the coming years that will reduce the need for unnecessary transfers and duplication. In recent weeks talks have progressed with the City of Sun Prairie on ways to better coordinate emergency dispatching. This budget directs 911 Director Dejung to negotiate an agreement with Sun Prairie, accomplishing a more seamless emergency communications system with our county’s second largest municipality. This will mean faster, better emergency response for those citizens and a marked improvement in service.
Lakes and Lands
From an innovative system to remove nearly 100% of the primary lake quality pollutant found in manure, to a new community farm drop-off piping manure directly to our new digester in the Town of Springfield, and a new cost sharing grant program to fund acquisition and remediation of the highest concentration phosphorus lands adjacent to the primary feeders of our Mendota Chain of Lakes, my 2014 budget makes bold new investments to enhance our ongoing work to clean up our lakes.
My budget deepens our commitment to clean up our lakes and protect our waters. The good news is, after decades of efforts to protect and restore our waters, we know the biggest threats they face and understand, at least at a basic level, what needs to happen to mitigate those threats. This budget aims to address these challenges and puts resources into meaningful partnerships to protect and restore our lakes, rivers, and streams.
It’s important we protect the millions of county tax money invested every year into cleaning our waters, that’s why I’m proposing new efforts to improve collaboration between agricultural producers and our Land and Water Resources Department. Through a department reorganization, my budget creates separate divisions tasked with the unique responsibilities of conservation education and enforcement of our manure management regulations.
We should recognize the significant contribution Dane County’s farm families have made in the ongoing efforts to clean up our lakes. From partnering with the county on high-tech solutions like our Cow Power manure digesters, to working with us to implement more low-tech, high result phosphorus reduction methods on their land, Dane County’s farmers are making an important impact. These critical partnerships are expanded in my 2014 budget.
This spring’s rains and prolonged melt resulted in the most challenging runoff conditions our county experienced in the past decade and highlighted the two important ways – - both high and low tech – - we can prevent water pollution. The first way is to make sure farmers have secure locations to dispose of manure when weather conditions make it likely that rain or snowmelt will wash manure into waterways. The second is to limit the path of pollution from field to water through land conservation practices like grassed buffers. To reduce these incidents of significant run-off, I convened the farmers who participated in the County’s Manure Management Task Force that first met in 2005 to seek their wise consult and proceed in such a way that’s respectful of the challenges farmers face with manure management.
Our farmers along with the vast majority of the agricultural producers in our watershed are the most careful stewards of our lakes and lands. They are also the first to admit that some of their counterparts may not be as mindful of weather conditions and terrains when spreading manure. My budget doubles the financial penalty for violations of the county’s winter manure spreading ordinance and creates a new permitting system for agricultural producers who spread in winter. The permit will need to be renewed every three years and farmers can waive the $50 cost by participating in a session on conservation best practices. These policies are consistent with those in place in other counties with similar agricultural and water quality resources.
The budget also gives farmers additional resources to further encourage them to safely store and dispose of manure. Under my new “Phosphorus Reduction and Remediation Program,” I am making $2-million in capital funding available for a new matching grant program dedicated for acquisition and remediation of lands responsible for the highest percentage of phosphorus run-off in the Yahara System. To be allocated, these dollars will require a 25% cost match with private monies from groups like the Clean Lakes Alliance (CLA) or the Madison Community Foundation. This creates new opportunity for groups like CLA to raise dollars for tangible efforts to cleaning our waters and helping our farmers – - like acquiring properties along and directly adjacent to the Yahara River, Six Mile Creek, and other primary feeders of runoff into the lakes. The “Phosphorus Reduction and Remediation Program” could be used on acquisition, establishing permanent easements, converting lands in agricultural use to wetlands, or constructing community manure storage facilities to be shared by neighboring farms for the use of storing manure that will then be hauled or trucked out of the watershed to other farm lands deficient in phosphorus.
With that second “Cow Power” digester soon to be operational just outside of Middleton, we are now entering an exciting new phase in our lake clean-up work. Before us is the opportunity to eliminate nearly all of the phosphorus found in manure through installation of water treatment technology. My budget provides the necessary funds to acquire this technology in 2014 – - a step unanimously supported by the farmers participating in this project. A business plan completed this year by U.S. Biogas, at the request of the County Board, paves the way forward for this exciting vision to become reality next year.
Capitalizing on the digester and water treatment technology, my budget establishes a community manure “drop-off” in the Town of Springfield where farmers with difficulty effectively storing manure can go and safely dispose of it. Located off Highway K, manure brought to this site will be pumped and piped to the site of our digester. This type of innovation will provide emergency manure disposal in future springs where farmers face the difficult task of managing volumes of manure while the weather isn’t favorable for spreading.
This budget confronts the challenges we face from phosphorus runoff with both the most high-tech and innovative solutions – - to ones most basic. For farmers who need help with resources to mitigate runoff from their properties, we’ll help pay for the cost of preventing polluted runoff. With $750,000 for Yahara Clean – - continuing the recently announced partnership with the agricultural community – - the budget helps farmers implement low-tech land restoration and conservation practices proven extremely effective in reducing pollutants that flow off our lands and into our waters.
In addition to cleaning up our lakes, my 2014 budget includes additional dollars to enhancing the quality of life our citizens enjoy through the development of new trails and ways to enjoy the natural areas we made historic investments in this year.
Acquiring more than 450 acres from the Bruce Company opened up 2.5 miles of the Sugar River for public enjoyment. Now it’s imperative we put these areas to their intended use – - public outdoor recreation and relaxation. Parking lots and canoe launches will be developed on the property this fall. Next year I propose development of a trail along the river from the north end of the property straight to the shops and stores in Paoli – - a popular weekend stop for bicyclists that will see hikers, walkers, and others as a result of this new trail. The trail will also include walking bridges over the river and become a true regional attraction.
Our acquisition of property at Holy Wisdom Monastery outside of Middleton not only creates great opportunity for further water quality improvement in the Mendota Watershed but also establishes a logical corridor for a new off-road bike trail north of the lake. In partnership with the Town of Westport, Village of Waunakee, and City of Middleton the budget will include $350,000 in county dollars to develop the trail parallel to Highway M. There have been safety concerns and some accidents with cyclists – - including at least one fatality in recent years – - on this stretch of road. The $350,000 in my budget will pay for design of this new interconnected trail and build a bridge over Six Mile Creek near the intersection of County Highways K and M. The Town of Westport, Village of Waunakee, and City of Middleton have all expressed an interest in funding additional segments of the trail that one day will span from the intersection of Highways 113 and M west to the City of Middleton.
Preserving our natural resources, parks, and ensuring our families and future generations have outdoor spaces to play are shared values. My budget bolsters our efforts to care for these spaces in three ways. First, I am creating the “Dane County Youth Conservation Corps” in partnership with Operation Fresh Start. The budget includes $64,000 to fund a team of young people who will work through the year on a wide variety of projects needed for upkeep of our parks – - keeping them clean and family friendly. In addition to developing job skills, these young people will also enhance the park experience for all of our patrons by helping with everything from building and repairing picnic tables to removing invasive weeds. Operation Fresh Start will commit more than $180,000 to this effort. Second, I am creating the position of “Partnerships and Outreach Coordinator.” This position will focus on building community support for our parks and coordinate enhanced private fundraising efforts to support our parks. This work is a top priority for the Dane County Parks Commission. Dollars raised through a more cohesive network of “friends” organizations can be channeled into the newly created endowment Dane County Parks has established with the Madison Community Foundation. Third, I am upping funding levels by $39,000 for rangers and parks staff to increase their presence in our parks – - both day and night.
I am also including $150,000 in capital dollars for continued development of our newest county park – - Silverwood Park in the Town of Albion. Thanks to the well coordinated efforts of several volunteers – - including an energized friends group, the vision for Silverwood is bold, and its future bright. In addition to recreational offerings, Silverwood also presents a great opportunity to showcase our county’s unrivaled focus on local foods – - creating new prospects for growers.
We have much to be proud of with our work to enhance local food production and consumption. Whether it’s our neighborhood gardens or making county lands available to help organic growers get started, we continue to be a leader in this area. My budget furthers this work through $65,000 to expand upon a highly successful – - neighborhood focused – - local foods effort on the Southwest Side of Madison. “Gardens for Empowerment” is founded on the evidence that where people live, work, and play has a significant impact on health. Engaging at-risk youth in gardening builds more resilient neighborhoods and the funds in my budget aim to take the model that’s worked in Southwest Madison – - to other parts of both the city and county.
2014 will be an important year for significant County projects that have been under discussion for many years. A new regional medical examiner’s complex just east of the Interstate/Beltline interchange will provide state of the art investigatory services in a regionalized model – serving not only our County but several others across Wisconsin and potentially other states in the coming years. With our team of doctors and staff and a facility designed to meet both the demands of day to day operations while being prepared for significant events, Dane County is well positioned to become the most elite medical examiner’s operation in the Upper Midwest. The budget includes the dollars needed to construct this facility and a new East District Highway Garage to maximize operational efficiencies. It also includes revenue from La Crosse County for us to provide administrative and autopsy services for all of 2014 – - expanding upon a mid-year pilot project initiated the second half of this year.
The reconstruction of Mineral Point Road and County Highway M on the west side of Madison took substantial steps forward this year. Consistent with an agreement with the City of Madison, the County’s share of the next phase of this project is the largest single road project included in my capital highway budget. Also funded is the necessary engineering and design work that needs to take place on future aspects of the project, both on Highways M and PD. Once complete, this major reconstruction will not only be a gateway to our County’s largest private employer – - Epic – - but also include modern bicycling facilities for those who choose to navigate the west side on two wheels.
We continue our efforts in this budget to accommodate bike lane development as we complete rural county highway projects. Work on County Highway J will complete an important connection to the Military Ridge State Bike Trail from Riley. In anticipation of Dane County hosting Farm Technology Days in 2014, and at the request of event organizers, the budget also funds the resurfacing of County Trunk VV and includes necessary planning dollars for upcoming work to re-do Highway P near Cross Plains. We have secured federal dollars to complete that project and include bike lanes in 2016.
The budget expands our commitment to be “CNG by 2023” through the acquisition of 13 additional highway trucks – - 8 of them snowplows – - fueled by the much less expensive and more environmentally responsible compressed natural gas. With the ability to fuel up at our new landfill for around $1.25 a gallon, this new fleet located at the East District Highway Garage will be able to move snow, fix roads, and do maintenance at a much lower cost to taxpayers.
Significant, environmentally responsible building projects will be underway at our Alliant Energy Center (AEC) and Henry Vilas Zoo in the coming year. Dollars for these projects – -funded through multi-million dollar partnerships with the State of Wisconsin, World Dairy Expo, Wisconsin Horse Council, and the “Friends of the Zoo,” were previously budgeted. There are a couple of new positive developments to report with our work to construct new pavilions on our AEC grounds. My administration and AEC Director Mark Clarke have negotiated additional partnerships in recent weeks to realize new private dollars, maximizing our expansion efforts for the 300,000 square feet of new space at the AEC next year. Thanks to the support and cooperation of Alliant Energy, we are moving forward to sell naming rights to the two new buildings to New Holland Agriculture Equipment. The New Holland Pavilions at the Alliant Energy Center mean more dollars to support the nearly $20 million expansion and equipment for improved maintenance of the grounds – - including mowing and snow removal. By extending our agreement with the facility’s current food service provider (Centerplate), we will raise new funds for AEC’s operating budget through capturing a higher percentage of revenue from food and beverage sales and an additional $1-million in capital improvements for the new pavilions.
Job one is getting the new pavilions built in time for next year’s World Dairy Expo – - then comes the task of marketing those state of the art new facilities across the country and globe. Under a new partnership with the Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau (GMCVB), my budget funds a market study to identify potential new shows we need to aggressively pursue in the coming months. New shows means new tourism dollars for our economy – - and continued improvement of the AEC’s operating budget. The Center has already responded to numerous inquiries about hosting future shows here in Dane County – - shows that haven’t been here before. We have enormous opportunity in front of us and this study ($50,000 from Dane County and $20,000 from the GMCVB) will guide our sales efforts moving forward.
This budget includes the most significant capital improvement project undertaken at our airport since completion of our new terminal in 2005. The successes of local companies like Epic and additional offerings of direct flights from here to all across the country have created increased demands for parking at the Dane County Regional Airport. My budget funds construction of additional floors on the parking ramp at the airport – - a $35 million project that will create at least 1,600 new parking stalls, hundreds of new jobs in the coming year, and solidify our airport as the primary gateway to this region’s continued economic successes.
We aren’t done there. The other significant building project this county will undertake in the coming year is expansion of our landfill – - one of the first requests I received from Mayor Soglin after being elected County Executive. An environmentally responsible solid waste management system brings costs with it – - costs that would be much greater to the City of Madison should the landfill close and the City have to truck its refuse to landfill facilities outside the county. Madison is the largest single customer of our landfill and this budget reflects an agreement reached just last week between my administration and the city, ensuring this project moves forward with an equitable share of operating expenses covered by Madison and Dane County. Under this agreement, Madison will see tipping fee increases in each of the next three years and enter into a ten-year pact to bring its refuse to our landfill. This guarantee is a key component to the County proceeding with this multi-million dollar expansion. My budget reduced the department’s recommended $10 per ton increase to Madison taxpayers by re-examining costs historically billed to our Solid Waste Fund – reallocating these expenses to general purpose revenue. My budget also reduces the current $10 charge at the County’s new year-round Clean Sweep site to $5 per visit.
In addition to better educating future generations about Climate Change, my administration took great steps this year to ensure county government is better prepared for the realities we face in the coming decades. My Climate Change Action Council met through the summer and identified a series of potential impacts and proactive steps we could take due to changes scientists say we will continue to experience with greater frequency.
Hotter, dryer summers and wetter, cooler springs and falls mean greater occurrence of flooding and runoff in spring followed by droughts in summer. More 90 degree days and days of extreme heat in excess of 100 degrees will tax public health, human services, and other emergency resources. Storms that produce greater than two or three inches of rain at a time will result in conditions like we saw earlier this summer – - high water over roads and dangerous washouts.
While preparedness will be a multi-year effort moving forward, I am proposing a couple of initial steps in this budget. First, I am creating a new fund in the highway department budget dedicated solely for the replacement of outdated culverts under roads. These culverts help move runoff along after heavy rainfall and many of them aren’t equipped to handle the volume that comes with big storms – - resulting in backups into valuable agricultural lands and in some cases, flooded highways.
Increased flooding events means more water in places it shouldn’t be. This budget creates a new $10,000 emergency sandbag fund for Dane County Emergency Management. Building a stockpile of thousands of sandbags ready for flooding response will help our communities and homeowners in the next high water event – -events that unfortunately seem to be happening with greater frequency.
Similar to our digesters, it’s important we invest in solutions with multiple benefits. Restoring wetlands helps store floodwater, mitigating the increasingly intense, frequent storms we see as our climate changes. These wetlands also act as nature’s filter, screening out pollutants, enhancing our work for cleaner lakes and rivers. Protecting and restoring wetlands is critical to nearly every one of our environmental goals and nearly every climate change risk we face. We will prioritize wetland restoration in the usage of many of our capital funds to enhance our clean water, recreation, and climate change adaptation efforts.
In each of the past two winters our county has experienced debilitating blizzards that have stranded motorists for hours and taxed public safety and public works resources. At my direction, Dane County Parks Rangers have become an integral part of our county’s response to severe snows and drifts. Last winter, these employees aided in search and rescue on roads buried in drifts and did household welfare checks on families stranded at home without power for in some cases 24 hours or longer. Given they have four-wheel drive resources, its important our Rangers have the tools needed when called upon to help in a well-coordinated response. The budget funds acquiring radios to include Dane County Parks on the new “DaneCom” interoperable radio system and new “Blizzard Buster” technology – - track systems to prevent our off road trucks from getting stuck in any condition – - whether it be several feet of snow or the lowest wetlands in our parks.
At my direction, we took the first steps this year to improving the ability of county vehicles to respond to emergencies in adverse conditions. This year’s fleet of new sheriff’s squad cars are all four-wheel drive police interceptors – - a marked change from the long standing tradition of acquiring only sedans for our rural patrol deputies. We have 16 new four-wheel drive vehicles ready to deploy during this winter’s toughest conditions and stand ready to order additional ones in 2014. My budget includes over $636,000 for new sheriff’s vehicles next year.
In addition to adapting to climate change, our county will continue to be a leader in the coming year at mitigation. From manure digesters on our dairy farms, capturing methane from our landfill and turning it into millions of dollars to support critical public services, and expanding our fleet to run on cleaner, cheaper compressed natural gas, we have much to be proud of with our innovative approaches to environmental challenges.
In recent years we made a series of upgrades to our facilities, with a focus on strategies that economize use of lighting, heating, and cooling systems. Modernization of these systems is good for both our taxpayers and the environment. That’s why I am putting $1.6 million in this budget for important, overdue work to make one of our least energy efficient county facilities – - one of our best. The Human Services building on Northport Drive has literally 58 different heating and cooling units that are several decades old. Replacing these systems and installing automated and LED lighting are just a few examples of concrete steps we can take to make our Northport offices run at peak efficiency. Throw in solar panels on the roof and other retrofitting and one of our oldest, least efficient buildings will save tens of thousands in utility expenses each year.
It is imperative we continue to pursue conservation practices and expand public education about the real challenges posed by climate change. That’s why my budget includes $380,000 in new capital dollars for a special climate change focused exhibit for the Arctic Passage project. These funds will pay for an interactive, educational experience for visitors of the exhibit, including acquiring a vehicle scientists used decades ago to provide tours of the North Pole to evaluate the impacts of climate change. This “Tundra Buggy” will give zoo visitors a unique vantage point of the initial explorative efforts conducted to examine the magnitude of the issues we now face globally. We will also install solar panels and large rainwater collection tanks to improve the sustainability of our zoo – - creating energy and water resources for use on our zoo grounds. Construction of Arctic Passage and adjacent concessions facility is slated to begin this fall, pending County Board approval.
How We Pay for It
My 2014 operating budget totals just over $508 million and includes a 3.3% levy increase. Consistent with state law, our levy for next year could increase up to 3.64%
The budget I propose equates to an $18.39 increase on the average Madison home (valued at $230,831). County taxes represent about 15% of an individual’s total property tax bill. The capital budget totals $44.7 million, $15-million of which is for development of a new regional medical examiner’s complex and dollars needed for continued planning and potential site acquisition for a more operationally efficient county jail.
We saved $270,000 by assigning the county’s health insurance contract to WEA Trust. Once again, many of our workers voluntarily agreed to take leave time next year – - without pay. This saved almost $200,000. County employees helped to avoid a health insurance increase of $300,000 by completing health risk assessments as prescribed by our health insurance contract. These savings, combined with improved economic related revenues – - including $293,000 from the Register of Deeds – - all add up to a budget that invests in vital services without any layoffs.
To our department heads, managers, employees, and numerous partners with a vested interest in the success of our communities – - thank you for all your efforts in compiling this budget.
I look forward to working with the Dane County Board of Supervisors in the coming months on reviewing and improving this budget – - the blueprint by which we will work from in the coming year to serve our families, communities, schools, and businesses. The values we share – - the issues on which we choose to lead – - distinguish us. The partnerships we forge and spirit of collaboration we foster allow us to manage even the greatest challenges.
Joseph T. Parisi
Dane County Executive
Categories: | Madison | Media