Dane County’s Finance Committee forwards budget amendments to full board | Government

Dane County’s powerful Personnel and Finance Committee passed a host of large capital and operating budget amendments Tuesday night ahead of the full board’s vote on the budget next week.

Many of the 2023 budget amendments required loftier changes than in previous years, said Charles Hicklin, chief financial officer in the county’s Department of Administration. Hicklin said amendments are usually smaller and more plentiful.

This year, the largest amendment requires $1.3 million in funding for the sheriff’s office to send incarcerated people out of the county to make space in the jail due to an unsafe and outdated facility.

Dane County Sheriff Kalvin Barrett is moving residents out of the jail now but because those costs were not budgeted for the current year, it will come out of the county’s general fund at the end of 2022, according to Hicklin. In 2023, the cost is included in the sheriff department’s budget in general purpose revenue.

There are several other proposals, from small thousand dollar amendments to large million dollar ones. The entirety of capital budget amendments passed unanimously Tuesday — including a new joint budget proposal between Madison and Dane County that could save the Madison Public Market.

Another amendment increased funding for the Affordable Housing Development fund by $4 million, bringing the total to $10 million in 2023.

Several operating budget changes went under review.

New county mental health positions

The committee spent over an hour trying to find an alternative to funding non-law enforcement mental health positions. One controversial proposal suggested cutting two deputy sheriff positions to do so.

Several supervisors on the committee were against the initial amendment and argued that rural parts of the county rely on those deputies for support.

“Unfunding two deputy sheriffs for two positions… is not the way to do this,” said Supervisor Melissa Ratcliff, District 36, who initially proposed removing the amendment altogether. “Rural areas rely on our sheriff’s deputies.

“We need to look at the whole county when we’re making decisions, not just certain districts or a larger municipality.”

The amendment, sponsored by Supervisors Heidi Wegleitner, Dana Pellebon and Kierstin Huelsemann, removes the two deputy roles to create two new ones — the first in the mental health division of the Department of Human Services to explore creating a non-law enforcement mobile crisis response system outside Madison, and the second in public safety communications to coordinate such a system.

Ratcliff’s motion to discard the amendment failed, along with a host of others who tried to pull money from other budget items to make up $210,900 to fund the new roles.

County Board Chair Patrick Miles said the original amendment was a fair compromise and provides funding for a critical resource, and ultimately the committee could not agree on a new funding solution and the original amendment will go to the full board.

A new option for the jail consolidation

Two county board members have introduced opposing budget amendments to move the stalled jail project forward — one that would align with a compromise the board passed in March and another that would cut the jail to five stories, similar to a proposal from the Dane County Board’s Black Caucus.

In front of the finance committee Tuesday night was Miles’ amendment, which would cease work on the current plans for the jail and move to design a five-story facility. (Supervisor Analiese Eicher, District 3, is instead proposing a nearly $14 million addition to the project to keep it closer to the original vision. Her substitute amendment was not included in Tuesday’s vote but will still go before the full board next week.)

Supervisor Maureen McCarville, District 22, introduced a motion to remove Miles’ amendment altogether, which failed in a 3-6 vote.

“There seemed to be an agreement that any discussions regarding the jail would take place outside of the budget process,” McCarville argued of the budget amendment, and that Miles’ changes have no impact to the budget but instead affect the scope of the project which was already determined by the County Board.

Co-sponsored by Supervisors Pellebon, Richelle Andrae, Jacob Wright, Cecely Castillo and April Kigeya, Miles’ amendment passed in the Public Protection and Judiciary committee and would require a significant redesign for a five-story facility.

The amendment also puts over $300,000 toward jail diversion housing.

“My thinking on this amendment was, in part, to be sure that we get the project done,” Miles said. “By having a smaller facility we not only are committing to housing fewer people in the jail and addressing disparity issues, but from a dollars and cents perspective, a smaller facility is going to have a lesser operating maintenance cost.”

Sheriff Barrett has raised concerns with the amendment, noting a smaller facility will increase costs from having to send jail residents to other counties.

Supervisor Matt Veldran, District 4, said he is concerned the amendment “kicks the can down the road.”

“This as proposed will open a building that will immediately need more space,” he said. “Our responsibility is to make sure that this system functions by the amendment (passed in March).”

But others, like Supervisor Mike Bare, contended it’s a good compromise.

“I think this amendment… gets us a lot closer to what I’ve been looking for — building a system and building a building,” Bare said. “There’s virtue in compromise. While I suggested this should be separate (and) that would have been my preference, I’ll vote to keep it in (the budget) for now.”

The vote to cut the amendment failed in a 3-6 vote, with Supervisors McCarville, Veldran and Ratcliff in favor of removal.

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