Last Tuesday, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway released her 2023 Executive Budget and six-year Capital Improvement Plan which she says will help Madison make a sustained investment in affordable housing, prepare the city for climate change and build stronger neighborhoods.
The mayor's budget, announced in front of John Nolen Drive with the Madison skyline in the background, will address the city’s notable infrastructure concerns by investing in various new transportation and climate-related projects, as well as continuing programs to reconstruct and maintain the city's streets, sidewalks and bus lanes.
One of the reconstructions is John Nolen Drive, which received $21.6 million to expand its streets and causeways for biking and walking. Coupled with the Lake Monona Design Competition, the stage is set for a “reimagining” of the waterfront Rhodes-Conway deemed a valuable resource for all Madisonians.
Key provisions of the budget include $22.2 million to support flood mitigation efforts, $23 million to make the city’s bus fleet fully electric, $2.5 million for accompanying electric charging stations and $350,000 to develop a location for Amtrak services in town.
The budget also contains $5.5 million — over two years in funds — for the water utility department to treat Well 15, a water source polluted by PFAS. Furthermore, funds are included to mitigate sodium and chloride in Well 14, and fund other water quality and supply projects around Madison. In the Hammersley-Theresa area, improvements to the stormwater system are funded to reduce basement flooding.
The land use and transportation projects command nearly half of the capital improvement plan budget, bringing the city closer to Rhodes-Conway’s vision of environmental sustainability.
“Infrastructure investments are not just about brick and mortar, they’re a reflection of our values,” Rhodes Conway said at a press conference. “This budget puts our money where our values are, and assures that Madison will be strong and ready for the challenges ahead of us for generations to come.”
The budget, a record-high of $368.4 million, is nearly double the amount the plan was expected to be last year. This is due in large part to inflation, which has increased the cost of the capital improvement plan by an estimated $35.3 million and driven up the cost of various other plans. An updated timeline for certain projects also factored into this increase.
One of these projects, the much-anticipated Imagination Center, was originally planned for 2024 but was pushed up to 2023, adding its hefty $15 million to the budget for this year. The $1.7 million State Street garage project, initially planned for 2024, was moved up as well.
Nearly half of the budget comes from borrowing — an all-time high of $182.1 million — which reflects inflation and the fact that many local matches for grants are conditional on the applications being successful. The other part of the budget will be filled by a combination of state and federal aid.
Affordable housing, which Rhodes-Conway called her top priority in office, continues to be a forefront concern in Madison. Detailed in the mayor's executive budget is capital to invest in affordable housing across the city as well as funds for pre-existing programs.
In the next six years, the city will increase its investment in affordable housing by $60 million.
According to the mayor, in that time the city will continue to spend $19 million to help people purchase and rehabilitate homes, provide property tax relief to seniors and support homeownership down payment assistance.
In addition, the budget reserves $2.5 million to purchase the Salvation Army site in the Darbo-Worthington area to provide the neighborhood with the funds for a purpose-built women’s shelter. This potential shelter would complement the $21 million permanent homeless men's shelter on Madison's far east side which was announced last March. According to the Mayor's Executive Budget, the shelter will be constructed in 2024 using county and federal funds.
Rhodes-Conway also pledged $6 million in land banking funds to combat gentrification and $5 million to expand the Warner Park community center.
The 2023 operating budget, which focuses on maintaining services, staffing, and programs, will be introduced next month. The Finance Committee can amend the budget later this month before the City Council approves it in November.
“My goal with this budget is to build a beautiful city,” Rhodes-Conway said. “A place that people are proud to call home.”
Gavin Escott is a photographer and staff writer for multiple desks at The Daily Cardinal, focusing on city and state news. Follow him on Twitter at @gav_escott.