County approves $560 million in spending for 2014

November 19, 2013
County Board Chair John Hendrick, 608.446.4842
County Board

The Dane County Board of Supervisors on Monday approved an operating budget of just under $510 million and a capital budget of slightly more than $51 million, increasing property taxes by about three percent or $20.71 on an average Madison home, valued at $230,831.


“The County Board has adopted a budget that embraces the future – increasing sustainability and decreasing racial disparities,” said County Board Chair John Hendrick upon passage of the budget. “We will continue addressing homelessness, promoting public safety and cleaning up our lakes and streams.  And once again the county board finished its work in one session – this year exactly three hours.”

The $509,623,195 operating budget includes funds to combat racial disparities; pay a living wage to human services workers; operate a day shelter for the homeless and provide services until such shelter is open; increase sustainable practices in County operations; implement water quality projects; and many other initiatives.

The $51,593,950 capital budget includes $8 million to plan and begin to implement recommendations of a consultant studying the needs of the Dane County Jail.

The $8 million appropriation was subject of some debate, as Supervisor Tim Kiefer moved to delete the funding.

“This $8 million is merely a down payment on what will be a $120 million project,” Kiefer said, quoting a cost estimate to build an entirely new jail in downtown Madison. “We approved hundreds of thousands of dollars for a consultant to study jail alternatives. I supported that. But that report has not been submitted yet. I don’t understand why tonight we are in this headlong rush to spend $8 million without the information we need to make this decision.”


The consultants’ report is due in December.


But others noted that the appropriation is for planning, and does not assume a new jail needs to be built.


“We’re not voting for $120 million. We’re not voting to build a new jail. We’re voting on $8 million,” said Vice Chair Carousel Andrea Bayrd. “This is an amendment for remodeling and planning. This isn’t a rush. This isn’t an emergency. This is a conversation that’s been happening for years.”


Others pointed out the budget language includes strict restrictions on how the money could be spent, requiring approval of not only relevant committees but the entire County Board for any expenditure.


“That’s unprecedented. We don’t do that. But we did it this time,” said Supervisor Paul Rusk.


Sheriff Dave Mahoney said the money is needed to address serious safety and health issues for both inmates and jail staff.


“It’s easy to think about them as inmates, but they are members of our community,” Mahoney said. “Every one of them is going back into our community. We have a moral and ethical responsibility to treat them fairly.”


“When someone comes in in a manic state, a danger to themselves or to others, they are not housed in a medical bed or cared for by mental health professionals,” Mahoney added. “They are housed in an administrative discipline cell. A segregation cell, uniformed in a paper gown on a concrete slab next to a metal toilet. For what crime? For being mentally ill.”


The motion to defund the jail planning and renovation failed by a 26-9 vote. Supervisor Al Matano moved to reduce the amount to $2 million, but that motion also failed on a 22-13 vote.


County Executive Joe Parisi will sign the budget in a ceremony at noon on Wednesday.


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