November 16, 2017
Sharon Corrigan, County Board Chair 608.333.2285
County Board

Priorities include mental health, water quality, and strong families


With a final vote on the 2018 budget pending, a key Dane County Board committee has approved several amendments that include crucial jail diversion efforts and mental health crisis training.


The budget-writing Personnel and Finance Committee this week completed its review of work from other standing committees and signed off on the $538 million operating budget. 


The full Dane County Board will take up the budget at its meeting Monday at 7 p.m. in the City-County Building.


“We say that county government addresses everything from A to Z – from the airport to the zoo,” said Supervisor Jenni Dye, Chair of the Personnel and Finance Committee. ”And while much of our focus has been on criminal justice reform and mental health treatment, our committees have also considered important environmental initiatives and programs to support families.”


Amendments related to mental health include crisis intervention training for all 911 dispatchers and adding a diversity analysis into a study of the feasibility of developing a mental health restoration center in Dane County.


“It’s important to intervene at the earliest possible point before someone with mental illness becomes involved with law enforcement,” said Supervisor Paul Rusk, Chair of the Public Protection and Judiciary Committee. “Training our 911 dispatchers in crisis intervention will make a difference.”


In terms of developing a mental health stabilization center, Rusk said it’s important to be mindful of any potential racial impacts of the initiative.


“That’s why we added funds to require an analysis of who would use this sort of facility,” he said. “The study needs to consider real, historical, Dane County data.”


The Personnel and Finance Committee also is recommending adding a new position to the Land and Water Resources Department to address lake management. The position would help with implementation of policy recommendations that come out from the Healthy Farms, Healthy Lakes Task Force, which began meeting this summer.


“Our lakes are Dane County’s most important environmental, economic and recreational asset,” said County Board Chair Sharon Corrigan.  “The County Board recognizes the Land and Water Resources Department needs the staff capacity to address water quality issues.”


Programs managed by the Department of Human Services comprise about half of the total county budget.  Board amendments there include additional funding for the Early Childhood Zones at Leopold Elementary School in Madison and in Sun Prairie.  Additionally, the County Board provides funding for the Today Not Tomorrow Family Resource Center, which serves families with young children and pregnant mothers.


“This year we prioritized helping children,” said Jeremy Levin, Chair of the Health and Human Needs Committee.  “These are programs that change the trajectory of a child’s life through support of the entire family.  Providing funds for these efforts benefits both the individuals who receive services and the community as a whole.”


Other additions to the budget include:

  • $3 million for the Affordable Housing Development Fund and a commitment to provide $2 million a year for the next 4 years

  • $40,000 in additional funding for case management for seniors

  • $100,000 for odor control equipment at the landfill


“Again this year there were many worthwhile programs competing for support,” said Supervisor Dye.  “I think the Board has worked hard to deliver a budget that not only reflects the community’s priorities but also bears in mind what taxpayers can actually afford.”