After hours of public hearing and discussion among members, the City Council voted 16-4 to adopt a series of important amendments to the 2013 capital budget.
The capital budget’s total cost is $192,642,092.
Numerous speakers addressed the operating budget amendment to allocate more funding to the Overture Center, which will be discussed at the City Council meeting Wednesday.
Important elements of the capital budget amendments include reduced funding for four additional hybrid buses for Madison Metro, reduced funding to various neighborhood centers and the allocation of funding to plan and design a public market for the city.
In an unprecedented move, the City Council’s amendments to the capital and operating 2013 budgets were packaged together and sponsored by 14 council members. Some council members, including Ald. Satya Rhodes-Conway, District 12, felt it eliminated the possibility for discussion of each separate amendment.
“It seems like the majority of my colleagues made up their minds before they heard the public testimony and before they heard what we had to say to each other, and that is disappointing to me because I think what we were elected to do was to listen and learn and to vote only after we’ve done those two things,” Rhodes-Conway said.
The purpose of putting the amendments together was not to simply make the budget process easy, but because levy limits need to be looked at all together, Ald. Sue Ellingson, District 13, said.
Ald. Bridget Maniaci, District 2, said this is the first time the council has organized their priorities systematically by weighing citywide and district issues.
Chuck Kamp, general manager of Madison Metro, discussed the importance of funding hybrid buses and said they are quieter, cleaner and receive good public acceptance. He said the most hybrids are used around University of Wisconsin campus, State Street and the Isthmus. He added they have a 20 to 25 percent better fuel economy than other buses.
Part of the 2013 operating budget amendment package proposed adding $900,000 for the Overture Center, bringing its total funding to $1.75 million.
The $350,000 of Soglin’s amendment proposal is dependent upon private contributions from the reconstruction of Lisa Link Peace Park. Soglin’s original 2013 operating budget cut funding to overture by around $1 million.
President of the Overture Center, Ted DeDee, said although Soglin’s alternative amendment is appreciated, the institution will have a difficult time functioning with such financial uncertainty.
Soglin’s proposal also requests the Overture Center maintain an open book policy and be transparent with its finances.
DeDee said he believes the City Council and Soglin have all the data necessary, including the Overture Center’s most recent financial statement.
Many employees of the Overture Center have stayed employed when the institution switched from a public company to a non-profit, even though they lost some of the benefits associated with being a city employee, DeeDee said.
Overture Center Theater Technician Brian Anderson said he decided to take a risk and stay employed at the Overture Center when the City Council previously guaranteed them $2 million a year in the budget.
“I know budgets are tight, but we made an agreement,” Anderson said.
Executive Director of the Central Business Improvement District Mary Carbine said the Overture Center has supported growth in the cultural vitality of the city and region. She said patrons of the institution have been crucial to the success of local downtown businesses, especially considering the recent economic hardships.
Along with discussion of funding for the Overture Center, the City Council will address other amendments of the 2013 operating budget Wednesday night.