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Joe Parisi; Dane County Executive
Joe Parisi
Dane County Executive

2018 Dane County Budget:

A Message from Joe Parisi

As our community continues to grow and thrive, the state of Wisconsin continues to cut services while delaying important priorities. With every cut we are being forced to answer the question– what kind of community do we want to be? This budget invests in our children’s future, our human services safety net, safe roads, clean lakes and air, safe livable communities and our quality of life. This budget keeps our commitment to everyone who lives in Dane County that your local government will continue to be there for our residents and not back away from tough decisions.

Below are some highlights of my 2018 budget.

Joe's Full Memo
Joe Parisi's signature. Dane County Executive

Our Children’s Future

County Executive signing the 2016 Budget
Dane County Executive signed the 2016 Budget
and expanded access to school based mental health teams.

My budget allocates $1 million for school based mental health teams, a program that works with hundreds of students, parents, teachers, and law enforcement to improve the classroom and home experiences of our young people experiencing mental health ailments in partnership with local school districts.

As school started this fall, 20 mental health professionals were available to work with at least 260 students and their families to help address mental health needs. This is making a real difference to stabilize both learning and living environments for our young people.

Our Early Childhood Initiative works to reduce the achievement gap, improve disproportionate minority unemployment, and tackle poverty. Currently, there are almost 140 families participating in our Early Childhood Zones in Sun Prairie, Verona, Allied Drive and Russet Road in Madison, along with the Leopold area of Fitchburg and Madison. Nearly $1.1 million in county operating dollars (or $1.9 million total) in this budget will go to continue this initiative in these neighborhoods.

Human Services Safety Net


What we’ve accomplished with the City of Madison, United Way and Catholic Charities at the new Homeless Day Resource Center, known as “The Beacon,” will make a real difference at advancing our community’s goal of helping those who struggle with homelessness get into housing.

Partner agencies across the community will team with Catholic Charities, the operator of “The Beacon,” to provide employment and training, mental health, alcohol/drug addiction, and housing services like case management, outreach, and housing navigation for hundreds of men, women, and children who face homelessness.

My budget includes $175,000 in county dollars for our share of operating the Homeless Day Resource Center seven days a week in 2018.

Mental Health

The Beacon, Homeless Day Resource Center
The Beacon, a new Homeless Day Resource Center,
will open this month after years of work.

My budget includes $100,000 for a comprehensive review of existing mental health services in our community. This work will both identify potential gaps while evaluating how a potential Crisis Restoration Center or similar community run facility could help improve care and outcomes.

I’m also including $100,000 in my budget to help fund Porchlight’s Safe Haven, a program that provides transitional housing and case management for those who suffer from mental illness to stabilize their living situation and reduce homelessness. This matches a recent $100,000 contribution from CUNA Mutual.

Additionally, my budget includes new money to support the critical work that NAMI (National Association of Mental Illness) Dane County does to better train and prepare front line responders and medical personnel on tactics needed to help de-escalate incidents where mental illness is a factor.

Safe Roads

Where the state of Wisconsin has come up short, local governments are committing more resources each year to improved road maintenance and safety. It costs 20 percent more to run the highway department today than it did just 5 years ago.

We’ve placed a focus these past few years on catching up on overdue road work on our network of county highways. Wherever the terrain makes it possible, we’ve included bike lanes as roads are re-done, improving safety for all users. This budget continues that focus, funding a number of major road projects in the coming year.

A partnership with the City of Fitchburg funded in the 2018 budget will greatly improve Fish Hatchery Road south of the Beltline to McKee Road in 2018.

The largest project includes the county share of dollars ($4 million in new county money) for the expansion of Highway M linking the west side of Madison with Verona, a project improving the commute for the thousands of county residents who travel to and from Epic for work. This more than $50 million reconstruction will now include a total of $12 million in county borrowing.

I am allocating $2 million for study and preliminary design to look into expanding the capacity of Highway M from Highway Q to State Highway 113. The function of adjoining intersections, especially the intersection of Highway K and Highway M, will also be studied. Special attention will be paid to preserving the integrity and quality of the parkland and water resources in this area throughout the project.

Starting in 2018, we will be funding our highway department operations with a $28 vehicle registration fee like many other communities across the state.

In addition, this budget includes:

  • Highway P from State Highway 14 to Village of Cross Plains limits – Reconstruction
  • Highway N from Highway A to State Highway 51 with City of Stoughton – Resurfacing with bike lanes
  • Highway PD from Woods Road to Highway M with City of Verona – Reconstruction to four lanes
  • Highway PQ from US Highway 12 to Village of Cambridge limits – Reconstruction

Several projects are also planned for rural sections of county highways including:

  • Highway P from Village of Cross Plains north to Highway K – Resurfacing with bike lanes (Town of Cross Plains)
  • Highway Q from Onken Road to Meffert Road – Resurfacing with bike lanes (Town of Westport)
  • Highway A from Highway PB to State Highway 69 – Resurfacing with bike lanes (Town of Montrose)
2011 - 2018 road construction projects diagram

Clean Lakes and Air


A year ago, I introduced the findings of years of data and research: a significant contributor to the harmful algae that grows in our lakes in summertime is coming from sludge that sits on the bottom of our creeks, rivers, and streams that feed into the Yahara Chain of Lakes.

To ensure the success of our “Suck the Muck” project, this budget takes two important steps. First, I am including an additional $2.5 million next year for sediment removal. Secondly, I’m creating a new Dane County Restoration Crew in the Department of Land and Water Resources. The crew will restore streams and fisheries and develop and maintain prairies, allowing us to complete “Suck the Muck” in a timely fashion.

Climate Change

2017 marked the important beginning of a new county led, community supported collaborative to confront the increasingly apparent realities of climate change.

I created the new Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change and the new Dane County Climate Change Council to develop a Climate Change Roadmap. This highly scientific modeling will chart out the steps individuals, businesses, and communities across our county can take to reduce carbon emissions and address the effects of climate change.

Solar Installation at the East District Campus
Solar Installation at the East District Campus,
one of the largest Municipal Owned Solar Arrays in the State

To help communities across our county invest in carbon reduction strategies, I’m creating a new $45,000 grant program, administered by the Office of Energy and Climate Change, to provide county support and incentive for others to join in the work we’ve embarked upon.

Green Energy

A recent analysis shows Dane County government reduced carbon emissions by 26% between 2007 and 2015. We build on this progress each year through steps like converting vehicles in the county fleet from fossil fuels to cleaner burning compressed natural gas (CNG), capturing gas produced by our landfill and using it to generate renewable power, and relying more on the power of the sun. Our work to date has reduced CO2 emission by nearly 23,000 metric tons. That’s the equivalent of parking over 4,600 cars for an entire year or not burning over 23 million pounds of coal.

Hundreds of solar panels on the roofs of county facilities are generating clean energy and reducing carbon emissions. 800 solar panels on the roof of the new Dane County East District Highway Garage comprise the largest municipally owned solar array in the state. Additional solar is under development for the Dane County Job Center and the roofs of the New Holland Pavilions at the Alliant Energy Center.

Perhaps even more exciting, the county is now seeking proposals for the development of solar on up to 30 acres at the Dane County Regional Airport. A project of that size could generate up to 6 megawatts of power.

Safe, Livable Communities

Dane County Jail

It’s my belief the Sheriff has demonstrated the need to replace the county’s more than 60 year old jail space, with a more modern designed facility that is both more efficient and safer to operate. The estimated $75 million cost of the latest plan, while not ideal, is markedly more financially responsible than initial alternatives that carried price tags nearly twice that high.

The opportunity to consolidate three existing jail facilities – the City County Building Jail, Ferris Center for Huber Inmates, and Public Safety Building Jail into a single facility offers the opportunity for smarter, more efficient service delivery. Reducing the number of jail beds by nearly 100 is the clearest demonstration this project is being built based on need and a continuing confidence in the effectiveness of our rigorous jail diversion programs.

We must be sure we’re doing all we can as a community to ensure those who run into trouble with the law as an effect of causes such as poverty, alcohol or drug addiction, homelessness and mental illness can access the vast community resources available to help address the root causes of the challenges they face.

To this end, my budget includes funding for an agency to provide re-entry case management service that will be available to jail inmates upon release while they transition from the jail back into the community. These services will include but not be limited to housing, employment, AODA, mental health and peer support counseling. A new staff position in the Sheriff’s Office will coordinate the administration of this program.

Quality of Life

Before school was back in session this fall, I had the honor of joining hundreds of individuals to mark the long anticipated opening of the newest and most picturesque trail in Dane County: the Lower Yahara River Trail. Whether hiking, biking, fishing, or sightseeing, this trail along Lake Waubesa will provide many generations a gateway to enjoying the outdoors.

Perhaps only more exciting than its opening is the realization this is only the beginning for the Lower Yahara River Trail. Future phases of the project envision a seamless link from Lake Farm County Park south to Stoughton.

We have the dollars necessary for planning and design work on the next planned segment of the trail, a link from McFarland south to Fish Camp County Park. I’m also allocating funds in this budget to support projects on the Capital City Trail, Glacial Drumlin Trail, and the North Mendota Trail.

scenic Lower Yahara River trail
The scenic Lower Yahara River Trail opened this year.

Budget by the Numbers

My budget invests $14.6 million in our roads and over $226 million in our human services safety net. The average Madison home owner will see their taxes go up by $57.

“Budgets are statements of priority. This investment reflects vision and innovation, creativity and collaboration. Whether it’s cleaning our lakes and air, 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
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