Madison mayor unveils new operating budget, including expanded CARES program

MADISON, Wis. — Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway announced her 2023 Operating Budget proposal Tuesday, which includes funding to expand the city’s alternative emergency response program and several of the city’s departments.

The Community Alternative Response Emergency Services (CARES) program, which launched last September, responds to non-violent behavioral health-related emergencies. The goal is to help patients who may be in crisis without involving the police. The program added a second response team and station earlier this year.

RELATED: Madison adds second response team, second station for CARES team

Rhodes-Conway said the new budget will fund an expansion of the CARES program, allowing it to serve the entire city 12 hours a day and seven days a week. The city would also create a full-time Emergency Manager Coordinator position.

“My budget expands services that improve the health safety and security of our residents,” Rhodes-Conway said. “It supports programs that strengthen community ties and engage residents and it invests in the success of the next generation.”

The Madison Police Department also received a funding boost over what it had asked from the mayor. The Department had requested about $84.2 million but was given just over $85 million, over $1 million more than what the department received last year.

Public Health Madison and Dane County received more than $215,000 to continue operating its Violence Prevention Team, which finds evidence-based solutions to reduce violent crime in the city.

RELATED: Madison officials say violent crime below three-year averages, still work to do

The Madison Fire Department also saw an increase in funding, up over $4 million from the 2022 budget. That includes $108,000 to hire a Fire Protection Engineer to serve the new area added to the city when it absorbs the Town of Madison at the end of October. The city is set to spend over $191,000 in 2023 to smooth the transition as it absorbs the town.

New to the 2023 budget is Mad-CAP, the Madison Customer Assistance program, which would give financial assistance to low-income households to pay for Municipal Service bills like utilities. Rhodes-Conway put $30,116 towards the program, which is pending approval from the state Public Service Commission.

The city would also send $250,000 to the Community Development Division to open up more employment and internship opportunities for adults ages 18-26.

Rhodes-Conway also included increased investment in programs benefitting Madison’s parks in the budget proposal, including $80,00 to hire a coordinator and buy supplies for the “Parks Alive!” program, which the city says builds positive relationships and trust between young people and adults.

The new budget moves $220,000 to create a Public Works staffing pool. The city’s streets, parks, and engineering divisions will pool funding in order to hire 10 new workers in the Streets division and transform two existing positions into full-time Parks workers.

“With this budget, we are investing in building a safer community, building healthier neighborhoods, and creating opportunities for young people in Madison,” Rhodes-Conway said. “With this budget, we are investing in building a better Madison.”

The mayor’s office says balancing the budget meant replacing $13.1 million of one-time American Rescue Plan Act funding from the 2022 budget. The city says revenue from things like building permits, room taxes and other fees are starting to bounce back from the pandemic, with an increase of 14 percent over last year. The closure of of tax increment districts is also providing $6.9 million in revenue this year.

The city says the property tax levy will also increase by $14.2 million (5.5 percent) to a total of $273.3 million, based on added property value of new construction, property from the Town of Madison and debt service costs.

In total, the new operating budget proposes over $381.8 million in general and library fund expenditures, a $21.6 million increase from last year. The budget is scheduled to be introduced to the Common Council during a meeting Tuesday night.

You can find more information on the mayor’s budget plan on the city’s website.