City News

After rash of gun violence, city officials look to prevention programs in budget

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin proposed earlier this month a $313.9 million operating budget. 

Image By: Katie Scheidt

Does a safer city start with violence prevention programs or with law enforcement?

That question was key as a Madison finance committee voted Monday night on nearly two dozen proposed changes to the city’s budget — and violence prevention seems to be the answer for local officials, at least for now.

After more than four hours of debate, the committee shot down a proposed amendment that would have removed a quarter of a million dollars toward violence prevention efforts led by the city’s public health agency. It also voted against a proposal that would have increased funding for police officer positions.

“I feel strongly that we need to look at solving the problem in different ways,” said Ald. Paul Skidmore, District 9. “And one of them is violence prevention — starting at the very beginning — and at the very end is a strong police force with proper equipment and staffing.”

Skidmore sponsored a related amendment, which would allow Madison police to increase the number of police officers at the department. It would allocate $400,000 in the operating budget to match a federal grant that the city applied for in June.

The proposal would add 15 additional patrol officer positions to the department over the next two years, if Madison receives the $1,875,000 grant from the national COPS Hiring Program.

The amendment wouldn’t have obligated the city to use the funds, but rather would have reserved them in case they were needed. If the city doesn’t receive a federal grant, officials would have then decided how to reallocate the funds.

“I hear from a lot of constituents who express the desire and need for more officers — patrol officers, specifically,” Skidmore said, adding that the city has recently seen an increase in gun violence and homicides.

But Common Council President Marsha Rummel said she’s hearing the opposite from constituents.

“I’m not hearing, ‘We don’t have enough police,’” Rummel said. “I’m hearing, ‘we want to feel safe in our homes’ and, ‘what are we going to do to stop this gun violence?’ and that starts with [funding violence prevention efforts].”

Under the original proposal, city taxes would rise by 2.7 percent, which is equivalent to $64.50 on the average household bill.

City officials will finalize the budget the second week of November.

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