County Executive Parisi Introduces 2024 Dane County Budget
Emergency Food Supply, Mental Health, Solar, Services for Most Vulnerable Highlight Nearly $900 Million Spending Plan
Dane County Executive Joe Parisi highlighted the importance of continuously bolstering the county’s safety net as he unveiled his 2024 county budget today. Parisi introduced his budget at the Badger Prairie Needs Network in Verona, a partnership between the County and a highly successful non-profit organization that helps feed hundreds of people each month while assisting with life basics like job training and other services in support of the most vulnerable in our community.
Parisi’s budget includes almost $11 million in new support for local food pantries and the emergency food supply network. It continues Dane County’s popular Farm to Foodbank program that was created in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, with $6 million in funding for 2024. This popular program links local farmers and growers with the area’s network of food pantries and is administered by Second Harvest Foodbank of South-Central Wisconsin. The budget also includes $4 million for Second Harvest and its partners to continue offering food security and meet increased demand, $500,000 for Badger Prairie Needs Network to expand a food storage warehouse, and $425,000 for the Extended Hands Pantry, a food security project on Madison’s westside that focuses on providing ethnic and culturally appropriate foods for county residents.
“The Covid-19 pandemic really showed the importance of life’s basics and highlighted how challenging it is for those less fortunate in our community to access them,” Parisi said. “This budget keeps our local growers feeding this community and positions our invaluably important pantry network for continued increases in service demands they’ve experienced these past several years.”
The budget allocates over $242 million for the county’s safety net of social service work and programming including a brand new $2.5 million grant program to help the local agencies that provide front line services with recruitment and retention of skilled providers who do everything from stabilizing mental health emergencies to caring for the vulnerable.
“We know that skills are in demand and the cost of living is rising, so it’s important wages for these critical jobs keep up,” Parisi said. Grants for the program will be awarded by a committee that’s also created by the County Executive’s budget. These funds are in addition to a $200,000 grant program Parisi announced last week to help expand the CARES mobile crisis program outside the City of Madison. Communities will be eligible to apply for the funds to facilitate the growth of this innovative behavioral health model that wherever possible connects mental health professionals with those in crisis. Parisi is also creating a new pilot team of crisis counselors directly embedded in the county’s 911 Center to help work with those experiencing a behavioral health emergency. This new team will cost over $400,000 and provide frontline behavioral health support to those in crisis, reducing the need for in person responses by mobile crisis teams like CARES and/or law enforcement.
In the wake of troubling recent data about the prevalence of falls in our state, the County Executive’s budget brings partners together like Dane County Emergency Management, Safe Communities, and Age Better to do in-home fall prevention screenings and create a new “leave behind program” in which EMS providers can offer aging resources to those with chronic falls. This will help reduce the number of falls and resulting injuries, lower the number of calls to 911, and more importantly offer a new way to connect those at risk of falling with community aging resources. Parisi’s budget includes $75,000 for this work.
The budget also allocates an additional $1.3 million in anticipated funds from the national opiate settlement to confront the ongoing scourge of opiate and fentanyl addiction in our community. These dollars build upon the County Executive’s Harm Reduction Initiative of a year ago, investing a quarter million dollars into housing and transportation assistance for those going through addiction recovery. The dollars will help cover the cost of rent and transportation to and from recovery appointments for those working to shed the highly addictive properties of opiates. Additional dollars will be used to purchase Narcan for Public Health Madison Dane County, local EMS agencies, and community service organizations focused on preventing needless deaths in our community. Funding is also prioritized for the African American Opioid Coalition and purchasing overdose aid kit boxes and various continued education and outreach focused on addiction prevention.
Parisi’s 2024 budget includes another $1.5 million in county funds as part of a partnership with the City of Madison to construct a new homeless shelter. It also contains an across the board 4.5% cost of living increase for all the county’s purchase of service care providers, which means these agencies will see a nearly $2.5 million bump in county financial support in the coming year.
The County Executive’s 2024 budget also includes:
*Over $440,000 to hire four new communicators (dispatchers) for the Dane County 911 Center
*$400,000 for new 911 Center mental health crisis counselors to de-escalate situations involving someone in crisis, reducing the need for in-person responses to mental health emergencies
*$300,000 to bolster Birth to Three services and intervention for kids
*$237,000 in new funding for case managers for the Area Agency on Aging, focusing more county resources on seniors
*A new Dane County language access coordinator to oversee the work of county departments to improve access to services for non-English speaking residents
*An additional $25,000 for scholarships to help more young people in poverty obtain driver’s education and a license
The County Executive’s capital budget for next year commits millions in county funding for road and trail projects, improved water quality and lake clean-up efforts, along with ongoing conservation and new renewable energy projects. It builds upon popular initiatives like Dane County’s “Suck the Muck” and the “Continuous Cover” conservation programs while adding $17 million for two much anticipated trail projects – the Great Sauk Trail/Walking Iron trail in northwest Dane County and progress toward completing the missing link of the Glacial Drumlin Trail between Madison and Cottage Grove.
The Great Sauk Trail is a partnership between Dane and Sauk Counties and will include a new bridge over the Wisconsin River, connecting Sauk City with the Dane County side of the river. $11 million in the budget will construct over two miles of boardwalk and trail south of the new bridge toward Mazomanie. Another $6 million will be paired with money from the City of Madison to add onto the missing link of the Glacial Drumlin Trail. These projects come shortly after the County Executive marked the start of construction on Phase Two of the Lower Yahara River Trail project that will one day connect Madison to Stoughton.
“This community loves its trails and deeply values the ability to get outside and within minutes be away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life,” Parisi said. “This budget builds upon popular projects and starts new ones, further enhancing quality of life and creating even more opportunities for wellness.”
Parisi’s budget includes $10 million for the Dane County Conservation Fund and $1 million for the county’s very popular Continuous Cover program that helps farmers establish acres of grasses and prairies while reducing carbon emissions and the risk of flooding. There’s another $1 million to continue Dane County’s Flood Risk Reduction project, the multi-phase initiative to remove decades old sludge built-up on the bottom of the Yahara River and includes $11.5 million in previously authorized dollars to continue work on the well-known “Suck the Muck” phosphorus removal project that helps better control algae blooms on area waterways. There’s $1.75 million to advance the restoration of Black Earth Creek in western Dane County and $1.5 million to continue the county’s work on making our lakes and waterways more accessible to everyone, regardless of physical ability. This work will focus on creating four new accessible shore fishing areas, a wheelchair lift, and other accessibility improvements at Babcock County Park near Lake Waubesa.
The largest single item in the Executive’s capital budget is $36.4 million for construction of a new Dane County Public Safety Communications (911) Center. This brand new over 34,000 square foot facility will be built at the county’s East District Campus and be the new hub of day-to-day operations for the county’s 911 call taking and dispatching services – for law enforcement, fire, emergency medical services, and other public safety related communications. The project is designed to include a variety of “green” renewable features including geothermal heating and cooling. The center will include state-of-the-art technology including a video wall where dispatchers will be able to monitor traffic cameras, weather maps, and other visuals to improve situational awareness of events that may result in increased workload for the center.
Other highlights of the County Executive’s 2024 capital budget include:
*$21 million for construction of a new “Heart of the Zoo” at the Henry Vilas Zoo. This first phase will construct a brand new, state of the art exhibit for giraffes
*$15.3 million for a series of highway and bridge improvement projects, including the reconstruction of Highway MM between Oregon and Fitchburg, Highway Y from Highway KP to the Dane County line in the towns of Berry and Roxbury, and Highway G south of Mount Vernon
*$2 million toward construction of a new Ho Chunk History Center
*$486,000 for new rooftop solar panels for the Henry Vilas Zoo and the Badger Prairie Needs Network in Verona
*$250,000 for the “Art House” redevelopment in Verona
*$1.7 million for new squad cars and equipment for the Dane County Sheriff’s Office
Parisi’s 2024 operating budget totals $787.6 million while the capital spending plan comes in at $149.8 million. The overall county levy will increase by around $29.3 million or 13.1% over the 2023 budget. Only 1.6% of that increase is for general county operations. 11.5% of that figure is comprised payments the county owes on dollars borrowed for capital projects. The Dane County Jail consolidation project represents a 4.3% increase in debt payments, and debt service on other debt accounts for 7.2% in levy increase. The taxes on an average Madison home (valued at $424,400) will go up $142.14 with this budget.
The Executive’s budget will be reviewed by the Dane County Board of Supervisors in the coming weeks with final passage of next year’s budget slated for early November.