Members of Madison’s City Council are proposing an unprecedented package deal of changes to Mayor Paul Soglin’s $266.4 million 2013 operating budget.
Two of the main items the council proposed would prevent the raise of city bus fare costs and allocate more funds to the Overture Center for the Arts.
Soglin unveiled the budget in the beginning of October, and council members have since been planning the changes, according to Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4. The City Council will meet next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, if necessary, to work through the final terms of the budget, he said.
Ald. Bridget Maniaci, District 2, said 14 council members are in agreement and signed on to this packet of amendments, which overrides any attempt of Soglin vetoing it.
“This is the first time that I’ve seen a comprehensive strategy being offered different from the mayor from the council leadership and signed on by a veto-proof majority of the Common Council,” Maniaci said.
According to Maniaci, the budget proposals are normally debated one amendment at a time, but this year the members have chosen to lump together six capital budget items and 16 operating budget items to form a comprehensive proposal. She said City Council analyzed these amendments as a whole in the hopes that the debates will run smoothly next week.
In his 2013 operating budget, Soglin proposed to increase bus fares from $2.00 to $2.25, Verveer said. He said if the fares increase, it will be the second time in three years the city has raised bus fares, which would have corresponding price increases in Associated Students of Madison student bus passes. Council members are concerned the majority of transit passengers have a low income and will suffer greatly from this increase, he said.
The mayor also proposed to cut funding down to $850,000 from the previous budget of $1,850,000 to the Overture Center. Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, said City Council members stressed the importance of the services provided by the Overture Center and proposed a new budget, allocating $1,750,000 to the institution.
Verveer said he agrees on the importance of the institution.
“The Overture Center is very important to the vitality of the downtown campus community,” Verveer said. “I’m very concerned that the mayor has proposed cutting the level of city support the Overture Center receives by 1 million dollars … this would be a huge hardship that could result in the layoffs of employees as well as a severe reduction in the free and low-cost programming we provide the community among other items.”
Verveer said the budget is very tight this year due to new levee limits proposed by Gov. Scott Walker that place a hold on the rate of property taxes. Madison typically relies heavily on these taxes, so City Council is struggling to move these funds around, Verveer said.
Soglin’s new operating budget, with the changes from council members, will go into effect January 2013.
“The Mayor is not keen on this proposal,” Resnick said. “But I believe this is the best budget for both constituency and the City of Madison.”