With a focus on investing in the county’s future, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced several expansions in social services in his 2017 budget.
Totaling $580 million, the budget, titled “An Investment in our Future,” seeks to expand the restorative justice court program, reduce homelessness and invest in environmental initiatives. These provisions will lead to a tax hike of 2.5 percent.
Dane County’s reserve funds for the current budget are estimated at more than $30 million, which Parisi has built up since he first assumed office, according to a statement.
With a new day resource center on its way, Dane County is continuing its effort in reducing homelessness by bolstering funding for existing initiatives and starting funding for new ones with nearly $2 million.
Funding for the Eviction Prevention Fund will be doubled, as was done in the previous year.
In a joint project between the city and county, $1 million will be used to acquire and develop a complex with single housing units. An additional $2 million will be provided for the Dane County Affordable Housing Fund to help fulfill the goals of the Housing First initiative.
The 2017 budget will also expand the Housing Hotline by adding two new staff members.
Among the new initiatives, Parisi’s proposal will use $80,000 to fund two full-time housing locators to provide housing for adults and families.
Similar to last year’s budget, Parisi will continue to expand mental health services in the county. Approximately $400,000 will be allocated to creating a fourth Mental Health Crisis Team for the Madison School District.
“The effects of mental illness are far reaching, affecting classrooms, families and workplaces,” Parisi said in the statement. “Dane County is stepping up and increasing our commitment to get help to those in need and address mental health challenges.”
To expand employment opportunities for first-time, non-violent offenders, Parisi announced that he will be expanding eligibility for the community justice restorative court. Under the budget’s proposal, the program can potentially be opened up to other offenders who don’t currently fall in the 17-to-35 year-old range.
As the opioid epidemic continues to grow, Parisi is responding by doubling the District Attorney’s Deferred Prosecution Program. The program defers people facing opiate related charges into treatment rather than prosecuting them.
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Parisi is also proposing to invest $12 million over the next four years to remove algae-causing phosphorus in streams that pour into county lakes.
The Dane County Board of Supervisors will be reviewing the budget and making amendments to it in the next two months. A final vote date on the budget will be determined.