Soglin: "Out of the 17 budgets I've prepared, this is clearly the most challenging and difficult."
Mayor Paul Soglin proposed a 2014 operating budget for the city of Madison that reflects his 2011 campaign promise to do more for the poor.
This portion of the city's 2014 budget calls for $260.7 million in spending, a roughly 3% increase over this year. The city would raise $198 million from property taxes -- about $5 million more than 2013. Taxes on the average home (worth about $230,000) will climb by 1.47%. However, because commercial and manufacturing development is up, residential property owners will shoulder slightly less of the tax burden.
In his budget statement issued Tuesday to the council, Soglin praises Madison's parks, lakes, economy and culture, but then adds: "Many people in our city do not have as much access to opportunity. Their access is wanting. These are families, teens, single parents, and young kids who work hard each day and who live in neighborhoods without access to quality childcare, good housing, transportation, health care, and the education and job training that is critical for success. Nearly one-half of the children in our schools come from families with incomes that make them eligible for free and reduced price lunch. Many of these children have had to change schools and disrupt their education several times in their young lives as their parents seek housing or become homeless."
To rectify the disparities, Soglin proposes a number of initiatives, perhaps most significantly providing $150,000 to study both the way that community services agencies are funded and how effective those programs are, particularly with programs related to transportation, education and job training, child care, health care and housing.
"We're going to study how we do the funding, we're going to study the process and we're going to analyze how we get the relationships in those five categories, so we most effectively spend the money," he said at a press conference Tuesday. "My hope would be that the day would come that in conjunction with such a study we'd see a significant increase in funding by the city and more importantly, the non-profit sector."
The council has struggled in recent years with how to meet the growing demand from service agencies for city aid.
Soglin also proposes $200,000 in a joint effort with Madison schools and the library "to fully fund a youth outreach worker and invest in more youth library outreach services as part of a broad effort to provide greater out-of-school time opportunities for our children."
Soglin also said he had to make some hard decisions in crafting the budget. He reduced the amount of scheduled pay raises for union-represented employees from 3% to 2.1% and for non-represented employees from 2% to 1.1%.
The city is negotiating with police, fire and transit unions, where it doesn't have the power to reduce salaries. "We are discussing with them a comparable resolution to what's happened with everyone else," he said. If proposed salary increases can't be reduced, each of those departments will have to find reductions of $300,000. "My goal is no layoffs, no service cuts, no reductions in what we do for the people we serve."
The mayor reduced funding for the Overture Center from $1.75 million this year to $1.45 million next year. During his current term, Soglin has had annual battles with the council over funding for the arts center. Last year he threatened to veto the budget after the council added an extra $900,000 for Overture, on top of the $850,000 he had provided. Soglin ultimately relented, and let the budget stand.
Soglin said that this year's contribution to Overture brings the city's "obligation to Overture now pretty much in line with other city agencies."
He said he hoped that this year wouldn't involve another fight over funding for the center. He said some council members would like to increase funding to Overture by $150,000. "I can live with it, if the financing is such that we do not go into borrowed funds... and we do not use reserves," he said. "I know that would please Overture."
The mayor gave the council $300,000 to use at its discretion.
The budget was introduced to the council at its meeting Tuesday night. Soglin said he had contradictory feelings about it. Last month, he introduced the 2014 capital budget. Both will be debated and tweaked by the council in the coming months.
"I'm pleased in the sense that I believe we've got the very best budget possible... under the circumstances. Out of the 17 budgets I've prepared, this is clearly the most challenging and difficult," he said. But he says the levy limits included in Gov. Scott Walker's Act 10 law have hamstrung the city. "I'm not pleased because we cannot make appropriate investments in human capacity and infrastructure which will clearly pay off for Madison, Dane County and the state of Wisconsin."