Although the operating budget includes few new initiatives and, according to many social service providers, insufficient human service funding, the capital portion is a salmagundi of new infrastructure and beautification projects, technological upgrades, and strategic-planning studies, among a slew of other small-scale expenditures.
The nearly 600-page package, introduced by Dane County Executive Joe Parisi Oct. 1, was passed by the county board Nov. 17.
The $534.4 million operating budget passed on a 35-2 vote, while the $42.4 million capital budget passed 34-3. The capital budget, supported largely by borrowed dollars, will raise the county's debt to $340 million.
With the new budget year less than three weeks away, Isthmus looks at how county leaders have decided to spend your money in 2015.
- The county's highways department will now plow around the clock during snow emergencies following changes to workers' schedules and a shuffling of highway dollars.
County plows will also now clear snow from an additional 46 miles of road, including University Avenue, County Highways Q and K (between Middleton and Waunakee), and Highways M and P.
- Rooms in 20 county-owned buildings will become available to women in need of a place to pump breast milk thanks to a $17,385 budget amendment introduced by Supv. Heidi Wegleitner and sponsored by 27 of her board colleagues.
The rooms may not be used exclusively for breast pumping, but each will have a chair, an electric outlet, a door with a working lock and privacy, Wegleitner explains.
Laura Berger, president of the Breastfeeding Coalition of South Central Wisconsin, hails it as a victory for the 75% of women with children under 3 who work outside of the home.
"To keep the supply of milk going, women have to regularly empty the breast," she says, adding, "All of society benefits from breastfeeding."
At $915 per room, some supervisors disliked the amendment, but remained silent in their opposition, such as one who told Isthmus, anonymously: "No one wants to be accused of picking on moms."
- The Dane County District Attorney's Office will hire six new limited-term employees for six months and at $10,000 a pop to help keep a records-scanning project on schedule.
The office will go paperless once all of the documents have been scanned, eliminating $22,000 in annual storage fees at the state records center.
Parks and trails
- Supv. Tim Kiefer helped Waunakee's Friends of Schumacher Farm secure $200,000 to replace the park's pit toilets with ones that not only flush, but are also wheelchair accessible.
A portion of the funds will go toward laying a cement floor inside of the park's replica 1930s-era barn, built with insurance money when the original was destroyed in 2004 during a freak windstorm.
The park, which re-creates Wisconsin's early- to mid-20th century farm life, attracts heritage farm enthusiasts from all over the country with a number of annual events. During this year's Heritage Fest, held each autumn, an antique tractor was used to harvest oats planted earlier in the year.
- The bike trail grant program will see a $750,000 bump to use in the development of new regional bicycle and pedestrian trails that link county parks.
- The Henry Vilas Zoo playground will get $70,000 in improvements, including the installation of a rubber floor beneath play equipment and the removal of a large rock that some worry "could pose a safety risk."
- The Parks Division will spend $20,000 to begin replacing 1,000 wooden picnic tables with the purchase of 40 new aluminum picnic tables, eight of which meet requirements under the Americans With Disabilities Act. It will also purchase four pedestal grills with a portion of the funds.
Buildings and renovations
- A $1.8 million office will be built for the county's medical examiner and staff, and $820,000 will be spent to modernize the City-County Building's elevator system.
- The District Attorney's Office will be a drier place once a $350,000 project to reseal precast sections of the Dane County Courthouse's exterior gets under way.
According to a budget request submitted to County Executive Parisi in August, the DA's office has been most affected by "water penetrations" that follow "rain events."
- Additionally, the courthouse garage will get a new $26,000 garage door that, according to the budget request, includes a "controller with preprogrammed menus and self-diagnostics," and which can open and close at variable speeds.
- The medical examiner will launch a cadaver dog program to help sniff out hard-to-find corpses. The purchase and training of a forensically certified dog will set the county back $13,000. An additional $9,000 will fund equipment needed for the program.
- Dane County Courts will begin installing a $43,000 data-driven system to help decide which inmates get released on bail and which don't.
- The Sheriff's Office will get 16 new SUVs ($424,000), two Dodge Chargers ($52,000), three vans ($73,500), a Harley-Davidson motorcycle ($17,500), and a Pioneer brand Sportfish 222 commercial-grade patrol boat ($15,000).
- Dane County Emergency Management will refurbish the mobile command vehicle it purchased in 2004 with grants from the federal Department of Homeland Security. The $100,000 project is expected to extend the vehicle's useful life by up to another decade.
- A new Bookmobile fueled by compressed natural gas from the county's landfill may hit the road if ready in 2015. The new library on wheels will feature 87 inches of headroom, hold 4,500 titles and have computer and Internet access. It is projected to save $4,200 annually on diesel fuel costs.
Governments love studies, and Dane County is no different.
- The most expensive is $350,000 to study whether installing two loading docks in the Veterans Memorial Coliseum will bring more concerts to town and to develop a long-term plan for the entire Alliant Energy Center campus.
The proposal raised eyebrows among some, like Supv. Mike Willett, one of the board’s fiscal hawks.
"Why a study about loading docks costs that much is a really good question," says Willett. "This is a group that likes to spend money."
- The Solid Waste Division will shell out $65,000 to evaluate its landfill operations and develop a plan for increasing efficiency and another $50,000 to study whether to cap the landfill with solar membranes.
- The Sheriff's Office received $10,000 to study rape within the Dane County Jail system. The study is federally mandated under the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act.
The Sheriff's Office will spend an additional $20,000 for a pilot study on outfitting deputies and courthouse bailiffs with body cameras. Supv. Leland Pan, who introduced the budget amendment for the study, says body cameras will help build trust between law enforcement and the community.
Sheriff Dave Mahoney, who supports the idea, says several issues will need to be fleshed out, such as when footage would be available under state open records law. That issue alone was enough for Madison police to scrap a similar push to outfit officers with body cameras, calling it a logistical nightmare.
Bridges and parking lots
A slew of construction in 2015 will likely mean more headaches for commuters.
- The county's Public Works, Highway and Transport Department will replace six bridges next year. They include: County Highway AB's Yahara River Bridge ($1.3 million); Highway A's Viney Bridge ($1.36 million); Highway F’s Booth Bridge ($1.75 million); Highway N’s Riley Bridge ($1.1 million); Highway PB's Paoli Bridge ($1.2 million); and Highway V's bridge in DeForest ($881,000).
- Stewart Lake County Park will get 20 new parking stalls in its main lot ($45,000), while Upper Mud Lake, a popular ice-fishing spot, will see its gravel lot surfaced thanks in part to a $120,000 matching grant from the state Department of Natural Resources.
- The county will replace the parking lot at the Job Center on Aberg Avenue for $223,000.
Odds and ends
- The highways department will get a $15,000 truck-mounted broom for sweeping gravel and debris off county roads.
- The Sheriff's Office will get 40 new bullet-proof vests at $500 each, 30 dictaphones at a combined cost of $8,000, and $13,000 for Taser replacement.
- Emergency Management will spend $30,000 on new furniture.
- A three-year enterprise agreement with Microsoft -- to allow the county to use and regularly update its software -- will set the county back $775,000, while an ongoing project to ensure all county facilities have a computer network speed of one gigabyte per second will cost $500,000 next year.
- To prevent electric surges like the one in September 2013 that caused $500,000 in damages to the video surveillance equipment in the Public Safety Building, $65,000 will go to surge protection next year.