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Madison Mayor Proposes Record $368.4M Capital Budget

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway’s budget would build bus rapid transit, support lower-cost housing and provide funds for the Madison Public Market. The budget includes no unexpected big-ticket items.

(TNS) — Driven in part by high inflation, Madison, Wisc., Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway on Tuesday, Sept. 6, proposed a record $368.4 million capital budget for 2023 that will build bus rapid transit, an "Imagination Center" at Reindahl Park and support lower-cost housing but provide no new needed funds for the Madison Public Market.

For the $20 million Public Market, the mayor's proposal continues the current, approved funding levels for the project but includes no additional money to help close a $5.2 million financing gap revealed last week that will, at minimum, delay construction from November until early spring and could threaten the project altogether.

Rhodes-Conway said she wants input from the City Council, which could propose ways to close the financing gap as budget deliberations unfold in coming weeks and months.

Once again, the mayor's proposal includes no unexpected, big-ticket items but funds many initiatives that were being planned and had seen initial investments. It exceeds the current year's record $354.2 million budget and dwarfs the $166.4 million plan from 2021.

Inflationary pressures, supply chain issues and rising construction prices have added $35 million in costs to the capital budget for 2023 and the nonbinding, five-year Capital Improvement Plan, city finance director David Schmiedicke said.

Those factors, for example, added $10 million to the cost of the initial east-west route of bus rapid transit, or BRT, a high-frequency, high-capacity, limited-stop service that would run 60-foot-long buses on city streets and dedicated lanes with special stations, he said.

Almost half of the proposed budget comes from a record $182.1 million in borrowing, with the remaining $186.3 million coming from outside sources — Parking Utility and other utility revenues, and federal funds for transit facilities, the Vision Zero campaign aimed at curbing traffic deaths, and BRT.

The initial BRT route will run roughly between East Towne and West Towne. A second north-south route is scheduled to be built in 2024.

The budget calls for $10.5 million in borrowing and $4.5 million in private contributions to cover the cost of the $16.6 million Imagination Center at Reindahl Park on the Far East Side, a one-story, 16,000-square-foot facility that will function as a library and park pavilion and will cost $1.5 million annually to operate.

It also provides money to help eligible people purchase and rehab homes, provide tax relief to seniors, support homeownership through down-payment assistance, and continues funding for flood mitigation and to address climate change.

"This budget puts our money where our values are, building a better Madison that will be strong, resilient and ready for the many challenges ahead of us," Rhodes-Conway said.

"I'm looking forward to the council and public's deep dive into the capital budget next week," City Council president Keith Furman said.

More For Housing


The spending and borrowing plan calls for another significant increase to the city's Affordable Housing Fund, raising the contribution from $7 million in 2022 to $10 million in 2023, continuing at that level for the following five years.

"We have seen measurable gains in housing supply — particularly in affordable housing — in recent years," the mayor said. "But the need remains great, and access to affordable housing remains out of reach for too many in our community."

As promised last week, the mayor also proposed another $3 million for the $21 million permanent men's homeless shelter to be built at 1902 Bartillon Drive on the Far East Side. That money, plus funds previously budgeted by the city and county and additional funds announced by County Executive Joe Parisi last week, would complete the financing for the project.

The budget adds $990,000 to the $3.6 million budgeted in the current year to cover expenses when the town of Madison dissolves and is attached to the city and Fitchburg on Nov. 1. Madison will absorb 90 percent of the town's area and 79 percent of its population.

All told, about $101.1 million of previously authorized borrowing for projects such as BRT, the homeless men's shelter and Metro Transit's satellite bus facility, both on the Far East Side, will carry over from 2022 to 2023.

Variety of Projects


The 256-page budget document details an array of spending for capital initiatives and projects, from modest to grand.

The budget helps fund the $15.8 million reconstruction of Atwood Avenue from Fair Oaks Avenue to Cottage Grove Road to a three-lane boulevard with multi-use paths for the Lake Loop route around Lake Monona and a new pedestrian and bicycle bridge over Starkweather Creek. The city's share is $6.7 million.

It also includes $350,000 to help locate and plan for eventual Amtrak service between Chicago and the Twin Cities.

It provides $7.8 million from a tax incremental financing (TIF) district for multiple improvements at the Village on Park mall, 2300 S. Park St., such as the Urban League of Greater Madison's Black Business Hub, adding to the $11.2 million approved in 2022.

It delivers $5.1 million to expand the Warner Park Community Recreation Center on the North Side, $2.4 million for a 4,000-square-foot multi-season shelter with event space, restrooms and service kitchen at Door Creek Park on the Far East Side, and $1.55 million for restroom facilities at Country Grove Park on the Far West Side.

"My goal with this budget is to build healthy, strong neighborhoods with libraries, parks, trails and family-friendly events that embrace the great diversity of our city," Rhodes-Conway said.

Public Market


The mayor offered no additional funds for the $20 million Public Market.

Last week, the city informed the nonprofit Madison Public Market Foundation, which will operate the facility on the city's East Side, that it had to withdraw an application for a $3.4 million federal grant that was a key piece of the market's financing package, and that rising construction costs have also added $1.8 million to the project.

The city intends to create the market from a two-story, 45,000-square-foot, city-owned building at 200 N. First St. that formerly held the Fleet Services Division and has been used as a temporary homeless men's shelter since December 2020. The city and county are preparing new temporary and permanent men's shelters.

To finance the market, the city had intended to use $7 million in city tax incremental financing (TIF), $849,000 in city funds, $3 million in private donations and the $3.4 million federal Economic Development Agency grant. In February, Gov. Tony Evers announced $4 million for the market from a state program that uses federal COVID-19 relief funds, which city officials then said was the last piece of funding needed.

But there was no way for the city to quickly move to get approval of more borrowing or TIF funds to cover the gap caused by inflation and, facing a federal deadline, the city had to withdraw from the EDA grant, Rhodes-Conway said.

Now, with the cost of the market reaching $20 million, the council should express its preference in making such a large investment, she said.

The city's project team estimates that about $800,000 to $1 million can be cut from the project without "deep, negative impact" to the overall operations of the market, and the city is exploring a new source of federal funding, but at most, it could provide only $1 million toward the market.

Furman said he's "a fan" of the market, but is "incredibly worried about the city's rapidly increasing obligation."

"This won't be the last ask for additional money for this project, and I expect if the city does invest more, we'll see future requests for increased construction costs and eventually operating cost subsidies like many other public markets in other cities," he said.

The mayor has also placed several projects on the "horizon list" for projects that meet a clear community purpose but are not yet fleshed out enough to be in the nonbinding, five-year Capital Improvement Plan.

Those include:

—A $3.9 million remodel of Fire Station 4, 1437 Monroe St.
—A $16.1 million Elver Park Community Center.
—$4.5 million in facility improvements at James Madison Park.
—$14.5 million to implement the Vilas Park Master Plan.
—A $15.7 million North District police station.
—A $22.9 million police property and evidence facility.

The city's Finance Committee will consider amendments to the capital budget this month. The mayor will introduce an operating budget for 2023 on Oct. 10, followed by Finance Committee consideration of operating budget amendments and City Council adoption of both budgets on the week of Nov. 15.


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