The Dane County Board passed its 2017 budget Monday evening, laying the groundwork toward a $15 hourly minimum wage and comprehensive criminal justice reforms.
Calling it a budget that will service the community’s “most vulnerable members,” Dane County Supervisor Jenni Dye, District 33, said she is looking forward to seeing the budget in action. The body approved a $587 million operating budget and a $50 million capital budget.
The board voted to give a 3 percent raise to employees as well as a 2 percent cost of living adjustment to human service workers. Dane County will roll out this increase over the next six years, with an increase of 50 cents per year. Wages will be $12.50 an hour in 2017 and are projected to reach $15 by 2022.
Dane County Supervisor Hayley Young, District 5, said she is “excited” the cost of living adjustment is in this budget. She said it is important the board invest in human service workers so they can continue servicing the community. Dye said the budget will be a step toward wage equity.
“[The Budget] puts us on the path to a $15 minimum wage and provides a raise for our hardworking employees while giving a long-overdue increase to those working at non-profits who deliver many of our critical human services to seniors and the disabled,” Dye said.
The 2017 budget also adds a community service coordinator to increase sanction options for courts. Currently, a criminal can be sentenced to a fine, jail time or probation but now they can be asked to do community service as well, Supervisor Paul Rusk, District 12, said. The budget also expands Dane County’s court mentoring program and restorative community courts, which could give youth alternatives to the traditional criminal justice system.
Community courts allow offenders to work with their victims and the community. This helps offenders understand the consequences of their actions and take better steps to prevent recidivism, Rusk said. Dye said this is a “big part” of the project and a focal point for the board.
“I wish that all of this was happening faster and that we continue to push forward,” Rusk said.
Dane County Executive Joe Parisi is expected to review and sign the budget by the end of the week.