Ald. Lauren Cnare, District 3, said the meeting was not a venue for airing discontent on Edgewater funding as Madison city departments square up for a year of budget cuts.[/media-credit]

The City of Madison’s capital budget took the first step toward approval Monday night when a few city departments presented part of their 2012 budget to the Board of Estimates.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin set the tone for budgets earlier this month when he said deep cuts would be necessary, and parts of the budget presentations from the fire department, the library board and others who have a hand in city finances were evidence to the tough economic times.

Madison Fire Department Chief Debra Amesqua presented her department’s 2012 capital budget, totaling $1,610,000, down from the capital budget in 2011, which totaled $2,012,360.

Amesqua said she was very willing to work with the mayor to make the necessary budget cuts, even if it meant holding back on the building of a new fire station on the eastern edge of Madison.

Ald. Lauren Cnare, District 3, said the fire station would have benefited the community because response times to fires in that area of Madison are high.

One thing Amesqua said she would not compromise on was her staff levels. She said she would rather postpone buildings and other projects to keep her staff intact.

“We clearly need a station at that location, but looking at the budget, at some point the economy has to turn around,” Amesqua said.

Members of the Library Board told the board they had hit a bit of a snag with their funding plan for the Central Library.

Library Board President Tripp Widder told the board the Central Library project did not receive a competitive $4.5 million tax credit. The board agreed to fund $4 million with the understanding the remaining $500,000 would be fundraised.

The grant is competitive, Widder reinforced to the board, and there is a decent chance the library may be able to reapply and receive the funds necessary.

He said generating jobs and economic vitality makes projects more attractive to those awarding grants, and this time around, Madison missed out.

Members of the Library Board said the Central Library should open its doors to patrons in mid-November with construction set for completion in the summer of 2013.

Aaron Olver, a member of the city’s Economic Development Committee, presented the current TIF grant projects the city may undertake and continue in the next budget.

TIF projects, while not part of the capital budget, are subject to the same scrutiny and amendments as the other city budgets, Olver said.

Among the assorted TIF projects was the Edgewater Hotel, which was recently cut from $16 million to $3.3 million. Considering the hotel funding was a major point of contention among council members last winter, the Edgewater was not spoken of at length.

“[Board of Estimates] is not a place to do battle,” Cnare said.

Tuesday night the board will go over other city department’s budgets, with amendments due to the board on Sept. 20. The Board of Estimates will vote on the amendments on Sept. 26, and the final City Council vote will take place on Nov. 15.