In an effort to refocus city efforts on affordability measures, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin halted various agency requests for new projects in the 2017 capital budget.
In a news conference Tuesday morning, he unveiled the specific figures and key focus areas for the 2017 Executive Capital Budget and 2018-2022 Capital Improvement Plan, which together aim to replace aging infrastructure and invest in affordable housing, economic growth and services for the city’s diverse population.
The total executive budget, finalized at $329,710,433, takes into account the 2.5 percent budget cuts Soglin promised across all agencies to lessen the city’s future debt burden.
Projects that are at or near completion, use federal funds, have critical infrastructure with rehabilitation needs or help improve racial equity will proceed with their previous budget requests, Soglin said. Other projects will be rescheduled or delayed.
This means that out of the total $329 million budget, $177.4 million will be devoted to funding the above initiatives, while $152.3 million will be focused on general debt.
Earlier in the year, the mayor asked department heads not to propose any new projects and remove or cheapen the cost of those approved in previous budgets.
Agency requests for funding totaled more than $127 million. To keep the property tax as affordable as possible, Soglin said he reduced those requests by more than $20 million.
In the meantime, the budget as it stands will focus on four key areas:
- Affordability: Improving aging infrastructure while keeping property taxes at a reasonable price.
- Livability: Investing into parks, bike paths and sustainability efforts.
- Equity: Providing opportunities for all through investments in public transit, housing, food access and other social services.
- Jobs: Supporting job creation and retention in the local and regional economic sectors.
“Many cities focus on marketability, but we focus on livability,” Soglin said. “This is why for the past five decades, we’ve continuously been named as one of the best places to live.”
In crafting the capital budget, Soglin said he wanted to create access for all people — a response to reflect a shift in the demographics of Madison.
But not all city leaders agree that Soglin’s approach accomplishes his stated goals.
Madison Police Department, which sought to construct the Midtown police station under the 2017 budget, is opposed to the suggested cuts. MPD Chief Mike Koval voiced his concerns earlier in the summer about staffing deficits and expanding community outreach under a limited budget.
Despite those concerns, Soglin is looking ahead. In the longterm, he anticipates a new public market will have the biggest impact on the city. The new market will provide access to healthy food, create jobs and businesses and prevent large companies from “coming in and occupying vendor space,” he said.
“We continually strive to make Madison a place where all can live, work and play,” Soglin said.
Madison City Council on Tuesday introduced the budget and referred it to the Board of Estimates. They will officially vote on it in November.