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Thursday, June 20, 2024

View of the Madison Skyline from Bascom Hill. 

Common Council proposes additional $6.8 million in amendments to capital budget

Madison alders proposed 16 amendments to the city's 2024 budget that add significant additional funding to community development projects and reconstruction.

The Madison Common Council announced modest amendments to Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway’s $266.5 million 2024 executive capital budget late last week, adding funding to the John Nolen Drive restoration and other development projects. 

Rhodes-Conway released her initial capital budget proposal on Sept. 4, containing several major project proposals for the city and funneling money into South Madison. The budget fully funds a new $18.6 million “Imagination Center,” a library and community facility at Reindahl Park. 

The mayor’s proposal also offers $11 million for the first phase of a $300 million redevelopment of The Triangle, a public housing development for low-income residents in downtown Madison. The proposal guarantees $15.2 million for flood mitigation and an additional $2 million for a $23 million men’s shelter construction project on the city’s far east side.

"My capital budget invests in the basics that our community needs," Rhodes-Conway said. "It invests to support safe communities and strong neighborhoods, and it looks to the future with investments in affordable housing and climate action." 

Rhodes-Conway’s proposal relies on $149.2 million in borrowing and $117.3 million from sources such as federal and state grants. Madison’s debt payments for 2024 are projected to be about the same as this year at 17% of the city’s operating budget, according to the Wisconsin State Journal

Sixteen different amendments were proposed, with notable changes from District 4 Ald. Mike Verveer and District 13 Ald. Tag Evers. 

Verveer’s proposal 

Verveer proposed significant additional funding for the John Nolen Drive reconstruction project, including $800,000 to increase the project's boundaries and extend a new multi-use path along North Shore Drive. 

The City of Madison Engineering Division is currently planning to replace the six bridges along the John Nolen Drive causeway. The project also constitutes improvements to the shoreline along the causeway and partial replacement of the bridge wing walls over Wingra Creek. 

The additional funding Verveer proposed follows the approval of $15.1 million in federal funding for reconstruction of the bridges. Rhodes-Conway raised concerns about the aging bridges during an announcement of the additional federal funding in April.

“The causeways [and] bridges date back to 1965, and every year they are subjected to the salt and ice of Wisconsin winters and the busy lake and wave action in the summer months,” Rhodes-Conway said. “These bridges are very much in need of replacement.”

Verveer’s proposal also provides an additional $5 million to the John Nolen Drive reconstruction project to design and construct a new pedestrian underpass on John Nolen Drive near North Shore Drive and Broom Street. 

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Reconstruction of John Nolen Drive is expected to begin in 2025 or 2026, according to city estimates. 

Evers’ proposal 

Evers proposed significant additions to the capital budget, including an additional $1 million for each year of the five-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for a loan program to support local nonprofits. 

The loan program offers support to nonprofit partners for smaller capital projects that serve or benefit certain populations or neighborhoods in the city. The program funds projects that create or improve physical spaces in Madison designed primarily to serve low- and moderate-income people. 

The project was first approved in the adopted 2022 capital budget, but the program’s delayed start made additional funding a necessity. The project aims to support and maintain smaller community and neighborhood facilities, according to the city’s website.

“Community and neighborhood facilities provide a public benefit and serve as focal points in neighborhoods, helping to bring people together, build relationships and strengthen neighborhoods,” the city’s website said.

Evers proposed the amendment with support from council Vice President and District 10 Ald. Yannette Figueroa Cole in response to calls from low-income citizens to improve community spaces and a growing demand for local nonprofits to finance newer, energy-efficient facilities. 

Evers also proposed to add $3.2 million in tax incremental financing (TIF) district-supported borrowing to the capital budget in response to construction bids received for site and stormwater work and a parking ramp for a $22.2 million redevelopment at the Village on Park Mall on Madison’s south side. 

The construction project will be rebid as three separate projects in hopes to reduce costs and increase competition, according to the Wisconsin State Journal

Other proposed amendments

Other council members proposed adding funding for more future projects, including a shelter with amenities at Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park, a splash pad at Warner Park and a new Wingra Triangle mini-park. These amendments would be added to the city’s “Horizon List” of projects not yet developed enough to be included in the five-year Capital Investment Program. 

District 5 Ald. Regina Vidaver proposed to add $250,000 in borrowing to the capital budget in order to fund an experimental forgivable loan program in 2024 and 2025. The borrowing would be supported through general funds, with funding geared toward aiding child care businesses in Madison. 

The loan program would benefit early childhood care services, and aims to fund capital expenses for the acquisition and development of child care spaces. 

The new amendments would add $6.77 million in borrowing and $25,000 from outside sources and grants to the capital budget, increasing the budget to $273.3 million. Rhodes-Conway said she appreciates “that alders spent time considering the capital budget and offering amendments,” according to the Wisconsin State Journal

“I look forward to the discussion surrounding these amendments and know that the council will carefully balance the need to invest in our growing city against the need to control debt service over the next decade,” Rhodes-Conway said.

Rhodes-Conway will announce 2024 operating budget on Oct. 3. The Financial Committee reviewed the 16 proposed amendments on Tuesday and will consider them before the budget becomes officially adopted Nov. 13. Each decision to amend the budget will require a majority vote from the Common Council. 

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Maggie Zale

Maggie Zale is a senior staff writer at The Daily Cardinal.

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