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Joe Parisi; Dane County Executive
Joe Parisi
Dane County Executive

2019 Dane County Budget:

A Message from Joe Parisi

My 2019 County Budget is built upon the tenets that see us through fear and strife and on a path to promise and optimism. I’ve seen this county change a great deal in my 58 years of life. As the decades pass our shared values and principles remain constant - we are a determined, resilient, strong community compelled by our unwavering care for one another.

Below are some highlights of my 2019 budget.

Joe Parisi's signature. Dane County Executive
Joe's Full MemoDOA Budget
putting together sandbags for floods in Dane County

2019 County Budget – Flooding

The 2019 Dane County budget recognizes that all units of government – the state, cities, villages, towns, and the county – have opportunities to invest in strategies that reduce risk and improve preparedness in the event of future flash floods and high water events. We are continuing work to rebuild and restore our hardest hit communities. In the same way we came together for weeks as neighbors helping neighbors, we will work together to recover and rebuild and be ever more resilient to the forces of nature. The budget has four specific areas of new funding directly related to flooding:

Maximizing Water Flow Management

To support the important community conversation into the New Year about how to best manage lake levels given the increased frequency of heavy rain events, the budget includes $75,000 to conduct real time modeling of the benefits and considerations for various lake level scenarios.

Flood Recovery

The budget includes $1 million for a park and trail flood repair matching grant fund and a $500,000 streambank restoration fund. Black Earth Creek, Pheasant Branch Creek, the Sugar River and other gently flowing waterways were turned into raging rapids by the historic rains of August. Restoring damage to these streambanks will reduce future erosion and promote healthy habitat for fish and wildlife.

Natural Mitigation

The 2019 county budget includes new ways to improve storm water storage and keeping rains on the land instead of running off. Wetlands are Mother Nature’s best remedy for reducing the devastation caused by flooding. The budget includes $200,000 to begin analyzing a restoration of the Door Creek wetlands that were inundated with water through the summer.

The budget creates the brand new Dane County Conservation Reserve Program to help convert lands at greater risk of run-off to prairies and grasses that are more able to hold soil and reduce water run-off. Modeled after the once popular Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) administered by the federal government, this brand new, $750,000 county program will pay farmers and property owners to convert lands to permanent cover to address resource concerns such as erosion. Furthermore, the budget includes $8 million for potential conservation acquisitions with a similar goal – permanently securing properties that improve the county’s ability to reduce storm water run-off and improve water quality.

Improved Resiliency/Preparedness

The increased frequency of flash flooding events in this quickly growing, more urbanized area means county government needs to enhance its emergency response capabilities. County government issued over 400,000 sandbags and deployed two sand-bagging machines during the August rains and subsequent flooding. The budget includes dollars to acquire two more fast-fill sand bagging machines, another 250,000 sandbags, large pumps to move volumes of water off roads and other critical infrastructure, and portable generators that can keep services needed in an emergency situation going even if power is out. Purchasing larger flood barriers and a high capacity pump can help us re-open roads in a more timely fashion. We also need to look at county highways more prone to flooding and when the time comes to upgrade them, we consider raising their elevation. This budget includes $200,000 to raise Highway W in the Town of Christiana which was underwater on separate occasions this summer. The budget has $80,000 for the Sheriff to purchase a new airboat to help with high water rescues. This watercraft proved invaluable when Black Earth Creek inundated the Village of Mazomanie, requiring a number of residents to be evacuated in short order by boat. To ensure a seamless public safety response, the budget also includes funds for a new web-based phone communication system to assist the 911 Center. Used during Hurricane Harvey, this system ensures that when 911 lines are full of callers seeking help, those with an emergency can report it in real time through a website that will directly alert the Dane County 911 Center. The budget also includes $25,000 for the county to help with emergency housing for those with special needs who need to be moved from harm’s way in a short time frame.

Solar Panels

2019 County Budget - Climate Change/Green Energy

Coinciding with introduction of the budget, I’m announcing a partnership with MG&E to develop 41 acres at the airport into a 20,000 panel solar field to power more than one quarter of the county’s total energy usage. When completed, this will be the third largest solar project in the state of Wisconsin. MG&E will lease land from the Dane County Regional Airport to develop the project generating 8 megawatts of renewable power. Once final approvals are received from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC), construction on the project is expected to begin in the coming year. Land between the solar panels will double as a pollinator friendly habitat, supporting dwindling monarch butterfly and honey bee populations. The project will increase local clean energy jobs, reduce carbon emissions, and lower energy bills. At the same time, county government is set to invest dollars needed to spur other wind and solar developments in our county and region. Partnering once again with Madison Gas and Electric and Joule Energy, we are acquiring renewable energy credits (RECs) to make these projects reality and offset county government’s total electricity consumption. Soon, we will help generate more renewable energy than all of county government uses on an annual basis – Dane County is on the path to being 100% sustainable, powered entirely by clean, green power.

I’m including $435,000 in this budget for our first “Clean, Green Park” that includes enough solar to power the Lussier Family Heritage Center. When complete, this project will include an interactive, educational display of the benefits of solar power that demonstrates in real time how power from the sun is running this popular community facility.

This budget incorporates our love for green spaces and fun family recreation with our green values: clean water, clean air, renewable energy.

Digester working on a lake

2019 County Budget - Land and Water

Dane County recently initiated a study with Dynamic Concepts to map out where potential new digesters could be located to both maximize water quality improvements while reducing methane emissions. This work will eventually lead to a report that identifies where new digesters could be built to get more manure off the land and into tanks for processing into financially lucrative bio-gas. The budget includes $200,000 to help prepare design specifications for additional digesters shared by farms in sensitive watersheds.

In tandem with the digester mapping analysis underway, I’m including $1-million for implementation of further clean lake strategies in the coming year, creating opportunities for further partnership with agricultural producers.

Suck the Muck

“Suck the Muck” started in full force this year with the removal of thousands of tons of phosphorus soaked sediment in over two miles of Dorn Creek, just north of Lake Mendota.

Water quality testing downstream of the hydraulic dredging being done confirms – less phosphorus is Lake Mendota bound.

Lower Yahara River Trail

Relying on a data driven approach, we will continue testing waterways to identify the highest concentrations of sludge in these streams and prioritize where “Suck the Muck” is needed next. As mentioned above, similar hydraulic dredging could very well be part of the solution to moving lake water faster through the Yahara Chain. I’m including $2.5 million in this budget for the next phase of work in 2019.

With a great deal of that future corridor already identified, design and planning of this second phase of the Lower Yahara River Trail is proceeding in earnest. Perhaps the one thing more gratifying than the continued public use and enjoyment of the Lower Yahara River Trail is the reality that plans are already in the works to make this and other outdoor destinations even better in the coming years. Design work will occur in 2019 for the next phase of the Glacial Drumlin Trail, beginning to bridge the final gap in this state trail that spans from Iowa County all the way to southeast Wisconsin.

In addition to new trails, we continue to make improvements to existing trail networks. The first phase of reconstruction of the Capital City Trail occurred this summer and while flooding slowed progress, that project is well on its way to completion. I’m including $900,000 in next year’s budget to continue pavement restoration of about 3 miles of the Capital City Trail, the second of a three year effort to restore asphalt surfacing on this trail that has over 150,000 users annually.

Dane County Parks

Our parks are one of Dane County’s greatest success stories. With an estimated 2.4 million users in 2017, twice as many people visit our parks today than back in 2009. Camping and shelter reservation numbers are more than three times what they were in 2009 – over 4,400 last year compared to just over 1,200 eight years before that. In recognition of the continued growing interest and use of our parks the budget also adds an additional lead park ranger position. We must also be mindful of opportunities to make sure our parks and trails are accessible to everyone. We’ve done a good job connecting those of diverse backgrounds with county recreational offerings. Thanks to the good thinking of Parks Commission Chair Bill Lunney this budget takes the next step forward in that work. Over the next few years we will work to convert all piers in county park facilities so they are accessible to everyone. This budget has the first phase of funding - $100,000 – to start this work in 2019. A number of our piers already offer these accommodations but we’ve identified ten additional locations where improvements can be made to better connect everyone with the joy that comes being by the water.

Chart about herion deaths in Dane County

2019 County Budget - Public Safety

In county government when we find a model that works - in this case improving public safety, preventing deaths, and keeping individuals from coming back into the criminal justice system - it’s imperative we invest in it. My budget for 2019 makes county government’s largest commitment yet at treatment for those burdened by heroin addiction. I’m including $125,000 for an expansion of the Jail to Recovery and Emergency Department to Recovery, and Pregnancy to Recovery programs all run by Safe Communities.

This budget is also mindful of recent state mandated changes at how juvenile corrections is administered. In the coming years, the state is asking counties to take on a greater role, potentially setting up regional juvenile justice facilities. This budget includes just under $3 million for the necessary planning, design, and initial work to remodel and expand Dane County’s Juvenile Detention in anticipation of this change. Under state legislation adopted last session, if this reorganization moves forward statewide, participating counties would be able to implement regional programming with a significant amount of state financial assistance. I’m also funding an additional juvenile justice worker in this budget to help Juvenile Court Director John Bauman’s successful home detention program better meet current caseloads in 2019.

Joe Parisi at the Beacon

2019 County Budget - Human Services

The Beacon

More commonly known as “The Beacon,” in the past year the Beacon has assisted an average of nearly 200 people per day, including families with children, in getting their basic needs met.

Since the facility opened in October of 2017, The Beacon and its partner agencies have assisted dozens of individuals in ending their homelessness by helping them find safe, permanent housing. This budget includes $67,000 in new county operating dollars (bringing Dane County’s total commitment to $239,000) to ensure the Beacon continues its success.

Safe Haven

A year ago, Porchlight’s Safe Haven almost closed after it did not receive a significant portion of the federal dollars it uses to operate its housing services. County government agreed, along with other partners, to help bridge that funding gap so some of the more vulnerable members of our community would have housing this year. My budget has $210,000 to continue assistance for Safe Haven - $160,000 of county tax dollars along with an additional in $50,000 outside revenue.

Dane County’s Eviction Prevention Fund

This budget bolsters Dane County’s Eviction Prevention Fund I created a few years ago to help bridge the gap for families on the verge of eviction and homelessness because of sudden life circumstances. Administered by the County’s Joining Forces for Families offices, I am adding $50,000 in new money to the fund, making $150,000 available next year. At the request of the Homeless Consortium, I’m funding ($50,000) a new housing navigator to help young adults obtain permanent housing who may otherwise face challenges finding a place to call home.

Dane County Veterans

A few years ago I included money in the county budget to help veterans better access service and care. Called “Vets Ride with Pride,” this initiative has assisted hundreds of veterans over the years with bus passes ensuring they can make medical appointments. Over time the need for this assistance has grown with nearly 150 vets being assisted already this year. I’m adding $10,000 in new money in this budget (now $40,000 total) for County Veterans’ Service Officer Dan Connery to continue administering Vets Ride with Pride in 2019.

Cost of Living Adjustment

The budget includes a 3.5% cost of living adjustment (COLA) for the county’s service providers. The work done by employees with all our human services caregiver partner agencies makes a real difference in real people’s lives every day. It’s often done under difficult circumstances with folks who have great needs. Their tireless compassion for others is well deserving of this significant COLA.

Dane County Airport

2019 County Budget – Roads, Bridges, Airport, Facilities

This budget includes record amounts of funding for road construction, repair and maintenance, more clean air powered trucks that run on renewable fuel, and more new highway staff. My highway capital budget totals $27.7 million with an additional $28.3 million for day to day operations. Over $22 million of this is for new projects next year – a new Dane County record high. Most notably, the budget includes the county’s share of funds ($6 million) pending an agreement with the City of Fitchburg) to begin the redo of Fish Hatchery Road. Pending a similar agreement with the City of Madison, the budget includes $1.6 for the reconstruction of Buckeye Road. Additional significant projects are planned for Highway S (Mineral Point Road) and Highway P outside of Cross Plains.

Dane County Regional Airport

While county government has many success stories, one of our areas of greatest growth is the Dane County Regional Airport. As passenger numbers increase (up 20% in the month of July, over 8% year to date) so too do the number of direct flights and overall air service to what is truly the economic gateway to our community and region. Given the vitality of our local economy and continued growth in both jobs and population there’s little reason to anticipate a decline in our airport’s performance anytime soon. This budget includes $20 million for a bold modernization and expansion project of the Dane County Regional Airport’s Terminal. At an estimated total cost that could exceed $50 million, this project will expand the main terminal, add new gates to bring in additional flights, and replace the airport’s jet bridges along with adding a new bridge. It will also upgrade security, lighting, bathrooms, and plumbing, and add more space to the airport concourse.

Badger Prairie Needs Network

In 2014, Dane County leased the former Badger Prairie Health Center Administration building to the Badger Prairie Needs Network (BPNN) for its work to support families in the Verona area. Fast forward a few years and BPNN’s food pantry service area now assists households in 6 different school districts. Since moving into the county facility, Badger Prairie Needs Network has increased the number of individuals it serves by 76% (13,300 people) and distributed ingredients for over 425,000 meals. This incredibly effective organization has really taken off and is making a difference every day in the lives of so many. In this budget, I’m including $160,000 for further upgrades to the facility – which is still owned by Dane County. These improvements will provide a physical environment that accommodates the building’s new use and allow for additional cold and frozen food storage.

The 2019 Budget – By the Numbers

The budget increases the operating portion of the county levy by 0.35%. This is the lowest of any of my budgets as County Executive. We estimate the county share of property taxes on the average Madison home would decline nearly $12 with passage of this budget. The operating budget totals $557,337,626. The capital budget is $63,228,300, bringing the total budget to $620,565,926.

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