2017 Dane County Budget:
An Investment for our Future
A Letter from Joe Parisi
My 2017 budget – An Investment for Our Future - makes unprecedented investments in compassionate services for our most vulnerable, infrastructure critical to continued economic vitality and safety, along with a quality of life that creates an environment where new families and businesses flourish. This budget is a clear statement of the priority Dane County places on green energy – harnessing the power of the sun to run our facilities and capturing naturally occurring bio-gas, converting it into millions of dollars of revenue to sustain services – and mitigating and adapting to the realities of a changing climate.
The efforts this budget undertakes reflect the values we hold so dear. Good wages, educational achievement, reducing economic and racial disparities, improved mental health, cleaner waters and conservation, safer roads for both cars and bikes, and housing for those who have fallen on hard times.
Below are some highlights of my 2017 budget.
My budget funds a new “North Madison Early Childhood Zone” that will help young moms and dads provide stable learning environments for the next generation of young minds.
From the time newborns are brought home, through their growth and development, and to the point of walking them through the doors on their first day of 4k, the new “North Madison Early Childhood Zone” is the highest concentrated, most collaborative effort to date to improve achievement at home, school, and within our community. Increased stability at home will result in improved academic achievement and eventual life success.
“The goal is simple: helping young families set roots for success.”
My Human Services budget totals over $294 million and includes new and expanded efforts to address barriers to our young people learning and their families succeeding.
Increasing Mental Health Services
In my 2017 budget I expand the number of mental health teams working with kids, families, and teachers in our local schools.
I am adding a fourth Mental Health Crisis team for the Madison School District to ensure all four high school attendance areas have access to critical mental health services before a crisis occurs. I am also adding funds to partner with more school districts outside of Madison to expand upon the highly successful efforts to date.
Since starting the first Dane County Mental Health Crisis Teams in 2013, hundreds of students and families across Dane County in the Madison, Verona, Sun Prairie, and most recently the Middleton-Cross Plains, DeForest, and Wisconsin Heights School Districts have benefited from this program. The Waunakee, Mount Horeb and Deerfield School Districts have all expressed an interest in partnering to add teams in 2017.
Additionally, we are bolstering the Community Crisis Response program through an additional $100,000 in the 2017 budget. A year ago, I added $82,000 to this effort to ensure law enforcement had more resources at their disposal to defuse situations precipitated by mental health emergencies.
With over $2.4 million invested in services and millions more now committed to a Day Resource Center, it’s important to evaluate all that’s underway in our community prior to identifying where to best prioritize resources to address further need. My budget fully funds day resource center operations for 2017 at $330,000.
Three years ago, I created a new fund to help our Joining Forces for Families (JFF) better keep families in their homes. Last year I doubled this “Eviction Prevention Fund” out of a highlighted need to stabilize living situations for families with school aged kids. Our JFF workers do intensive case management with these families. They help them sign up for all benefits and services they’re eligible for, connecting them with employment and housing. This year, the program is on track to serve over 200 families and 400 kids.
By addressing poverty family by family we are preventing homelessness, increasing employment, and reducing disparities. Given the effectiveness of the “Eviction Prevention Fund,” I am once again doubling this fund.
My budget expands the capabilities of the “Housing Hotline,” adding two new staff members to help better connect homeless individuals with existing services, while improving community outreach and education. My proposal also contains money to create two full-time housing locators to work proactively at identifying available housing. These new positions can build upon our progress made at helping our community’s homeless veterans. To date we have housed 151 veterans.
I want to call special attention with this budget to the incredible work our Human Services Department does for seniors in our community. Highlighted by our incredibly successful Aging and Disability Resource Center, we are dedicating nearly $9.3 million for senior services in 2017. My budget adds dollars for senior case management, nutrition site management, the RSVP driver services program, Caregivers Support, and cultural diversity outreach efforts.
My Access to Opportunity initiative of a year ago called attention to the many leadership roles county government can serve in reducing disparities both within our operations and throughout the community. To date, we’ve hired a Director and staff and office remodeling is well underway. In 2017, we’ll take the next steps with the “Tamara Grigsby Office for Equity and Inclusion.”
Driver’s License: An effective jobs program
I’ve long maintained one of the best job creation programs to reducing economic and employment disparities is a driver’s license. This past summer, we helped 100 Madison school kids who otherwise couldn’t afford driver’s education an opportunity to earn their licenses.
This budget continues that work, helping 25 kids at each of the four Madison high schools, while creating a new scholarship fund for students outside of Madison whose families otherwise have trouble finding the nearly $500 it takes to get into a drivers’ education course.
Getting more families to work was the goal of our “Southwest Partnership,” where Dane County helped 82 people in the past year pave a path to employment through a transitional employment program. 80% of those in the program got a job. 36 started the program homeless and 20 of them have since found permanent housing.
Dane County is one of the best places for biking in the country. This budget is far and away the boldest in the county’s history for bicycling.
I am including over $2-million for three new off-trail projects, more staff to accelerate design and engineering work, and dollars for nearly 25 miles of new on-road paved bike lanes paired with re-done county highways.
It’s equally important we invest in the safety of our roads as well. This budget is the biggest investment into our crumbling county highways in Dane County’s history.
In addition to road repairs, my highway budget adds a total of five new positions to the Highway Department. This
demonstrated commitment to safer, better maintained roads through all seasons will pay dividends not only when the snow flies, but also when rapidly spreading invasive weeds like wild parsnip sprout in roadside ditches next spring.
Climate Change/Green Energy
2017 will be Dane County’s cleanest, greenest budget ever.
This budget funds the most robust solar power program in Dane County history, allowing more of our facilities to be self-sustaining and efficient. I am proposing more than $2 million in new solar development, more than doubling all of county government’s total solar energy production portfolio next year alone.
Innovative, Green Energy Revenue
My budget builds upon our legacy of being a national innovator and leader on maximizing biofuels for the county's environmental and financial gain. I am including $18 million for development of biogas cleaning technology that will move gas made by trash at the landfill to parts of the country where compressed natural gas in vehicles is commonplace. Once complete, this new clean fuel program will earn county taxpayers $6 to $8 million per year in new revenue and reduce carbon emissions by 30,000 tons per year.
Through the first seven months of this year the Madison Fire Department responded to 288 calls for suspected heroin and opiate overdoses. That was two and a half times greater than the same number of those incidents reported thru July of 2015.
For those who slide into the criminal justice system it's critical we get at the underlying cause of their crime. That’s why I am funding a permanent opiates counselor position to assist with deferred prosecutions in the District Attorney's (DA's) Office.
People's first stop after an overdose is the emergency room (ER). My budget matches dollars from other non-profits in partnership with the Safe Communities Coalition and local hospitals to pay for "Recovery Coaches" to respond to the ER when an overdose victim is brought in for care. The goal: early intervention - especially with first time users - to get them to realize the dangerous path they've come upon and see the merit of enlisting into treatment.
Budget by the Numbers
My budget comes in more than $496,000 under the state imposed levy cap and increases taxes on the average Madison home by $19.61 or 2.5%.
“Budgets are statements of priority. This Investment for our Future reflects vision and innovation, creativity and collaboration. Whether it’s cleaning our lakes quicker, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and our carbon footprint, coordinating services for the betterment of kids, seniors, and those most vulnerable, or confronting our challenges, this budget was crafted the Dane County Way, listening, learning and working together.”
- Dane County Executive Parisi