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County Executive's Office

County Executive Parisi Introduces 2014 Budget: "An Investment in Our Values"

October 01, 2013
Casey Slaughter Becker, Office of the County Executive (608) 267-8823 or cell (608) 843-8858
County Executive

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi introduced his 2014 budget Tuesday, a document that represents Dane County’s values with unrivaled investments in services for people, innovative new efforts to make communities safer, efforts to enhance county parks and infrastructure, and measures to protect the county’s lakes and natural resources.  The budget has the second-lowest property tax levy increase in the last decade.


“We have much to be proud of in Dane County,” said Parisi.  “My 2014 county budget builds upon the values we hold dear by making meaningful investments to strengthen children and families, our communities, economic development, and our quality of life.”


The County Executive directed department heads to submit status quo budgets with no targeted reductions, and where possible, find private partnerships to help reduce the need for taxpayer dollars.


This unique experience was made possible through many factors.  Revenues are rebounding as the economy continues to recover.  Delinquent property taxes are down, and sales tax and fees associated with renewed development are up.


Projected at almost $19 million, the reserve under Parisi’s leadership is the highest it has ever been.  This is due in part to the County Executive’s multi-year effort to “right size” budget line items, eliminating recurring deficits in certain departments, and year-end draws on the reserve fund.


This budget addresses those primary remaining variances – matching budgeted amounts with actual expenses and revenues to the tune of nearly $2 million.


The strength of Dane County’s general reserve better positions the county for future uncertainty – whether it be expanded budget cuts at the federal or state level or another slowing of our nation’s economy. 





Parisi was joined for his budget introduction by dozens of supporters of Dane County’s parks and clean lakes efforts to announce that his budget includes the largest investment in lakes and lands in county history.


The County Executive’s parks budget includes significant investments that will expand and strengthen the county’s mission to connect more people with the county’s abundant natural resources.


In partnership with Operation Fresh Start, the County Executive is creating the “Dane County Youth Conservation Corps.” This $64,000 investment will fund a team of young people who will work year-round on a wide variety of projects.  This work will help the young people involved develop critical job skills, and their projects will keep county parks and their amenities clean, accessible, and family friendly – everything from building and repairing picnic tables to removing invasive weeds.  Operation Fresh Start will commit more than $180,000 to this effort.


Parisi’s budget also creates the position of parks “Partnerships and Outreach Coordinator.”  This position will focus on building community support for our parks and coordination of enhanced private fundraising efforts.  Dollars raised can be channeled into the newly created private endowment Dane County Parks has established with the Madison Community Foundation. 


Also included is an unprecedented $1.3 million investment in new trails including $600,000 for the next steps to develop the Lower Yahara Trail between Stoughton and Madison. 


Acquiring more than 450 acres from the Bruce Company opened up 2.5 miles of the Sugar River for public enjoyment, paving the way for a new regional attraction.  Parking lots and canoe launches will be developed on the property this fall. 


In his 2014 budget, Parisi funds development of a trail along the river from the north end of the property straight to the shops and stores in Paoli – a popular weekend stop for bicyclists that will see increased traffic from hikers, walkers, and others as a result of this new trail.  The trail will also include walking bridges over the river.


“At more than two million visitors per year, our parks are an important contributor to the high quality of life that makes Dane County the fastest growing county in Wisconsin,” said Parisi.  “These investments will make our parks system stronger, will enable us to move forward on new parks and amenities, and will make the outdoor experience even better for families.”


The county’s acquisition of property at Holy Wisdom Monastery near Middleton created great opportunity for further water quality improvement in the Mendota Watershed and paved the way for a new off-road bike trail to improve motorist and cyclist safety north of the lake.  


In partnership with the Town of Westport, Village of Waunakee, and City of Middleton, Parisi’s budget will include $350,000 in county dollars to develop the trail parallel to Highway M.  The funds will pay for design of this new interconnected trail and build a bridge over Six Mile Creek near the intersection of County Highways K and M.  The Town of Westport, Village of Waunakee, and City of Middleton have all expressed an interest in funding additional segments of the trail that one day will span from the intersection of Highways 113 and M west to the City of Middleton.


Dane County has a national reputation for increasing access to local foods.  Whether through a new community garden in Verona, or making other county lands available to help organic growers get started, we continue to be a leader in this area. 


Parisi’s furthers this work with $65,000 to expand upon a highly successful –  neighborhood focused –  local foods effort on the Southwest Side of Madison.  “Gardens for Empowerment” is founded on the evidence that where people live, work, and play has a significant impact on health.  Engaging at-risk youth in gardening builds more resilient neighborhoods.  The funds in the County Executive’s budget aim to take the model that’s worked in Southwest Madison to other parts of both the city and county.


An additional $39,000 in resources for park rangers and staff is also included to increase their presence in county parks, both day and night.


The County Executive’s budget continues the county’s commitment to cleaner  lakes and waterways with investments in bold phosphorus reduction solutions.


Dane County’s farm families have made important contributions to the ongoing efforts to improve lake health.  The County Executive’s budget expands on this strong partnership by giving farmers additional resources to further encourage them to safely store and dispose of manure. 


Parisi’s new “Phosphorus Reduction and Remediation Program” makes $2 million in capital funding available for a new matching grant dedicated to acquisition and remediation of lands responsible for the highest percentage of phosphorus run-off in the Yahara System. 


The program could be also be used to establish permanent easements, convert lands in agricultural use to wetlands, or to construct community manure storage facilities.  These facilities would be shared by neighboring farms to store manure that will then be hauled or trucked out of the watershed to other farmlands deficient in phosphorus.


To be allocated, these dollars will require a 25% cost match with private monies from groups like the Clean Lakes Alliance (CLA) or the Madison Community Foundation. 


This grant program also creates new opportunity for groups such as CLA to raise dollars for tangible efforts to clean up our lakes while helping our farmers, such as acquiring properties along and directly adjacent to the Yahara River, Six Mile Creek, and other primary feeders of phosphorus runoff. 


With the county’s second “Cow Power” digester soon to be operational just outside of Middleton, an exciting new phase in the county’s lake clean-up work is soon to begin.  Parisi’s budget provides the necessary funds to acquire technology for the digester in 2014 that will eliminate 100% of the phosphorus in the manure the facility processes – a step widely supported by the farmers participating in this project. 


A business plan completed this year by U.S. Biogas, at the request of the County Board, paves the way forward for this exciting vision to become reality next year.


Capitalizing on this groundbreaking digester and water treatment technology, the County Executive’s budget also establishes a community manure “drop-off” in the Town of Springfield where farmers who have difficulty effectively storing manure could safely dispose of it.


Located off Highway K, manure brought to this site will be pumped and piped to the site of the county’s newest Cow Power facility.  This type of innovation will provide emergency manure disposal in future springs where farmers face the difficult task of managing volumes of manure while the weather isn’t favorable for spreading.


Another important component of manure management is careful and respectful standards.  Farmers and the vast majority of the agricultural producers in Dane County’s watershed have been the most careful stewards of lakes and lands.   They are also the first to admit that some of their counterparts may not be as mindful of weather conditions and terrains when spreading manure.  The County Executive’s budget doubles the financial penalty for violations of the county’s winter manure spreading ordinance and creates a new permitting system for agricultural producers who spread in winter.  These policies are consistent with those in place in other counties with similar agricultural and water quality resources.




Parisi’s 2014 human services budget totals over $252.2 million – representing nearly half of the entire county budget.  This unparalleled investment in people builds on Dane County’s commitment to ensure that all residents have the opportunity to succeed – regardless of socio-economic class or race.   


The County Executive’s budget expands an existing partnership he initiated with the United Way last year to create an innovative birth to four-year-old kindergarten program at Madison’s Leopold Elementary.


Parisi’s $165,000 investment will create additional “Early Childhood Zones” to increase efforts to stabilize families and address the educational achievement gap in challenged neighborhoods.  Two zones will serve the disadvantaged neighborhoods of Allied Drive and areas around Westside Elementary in Sun Prairie. Conversations are already underway about expanding this effort to additional schools in the coming years, should resources allow.


The zones provide hands-on resources for parents, located in their own neighborhood, to help them prepare their children for success in school with at-home education and an emphasis on enrollment in 4-year-old kindergarten. 


Children will receive regular in-home visits from staff, and together, children and their parents will be taught valuable developmental skills.


Children and their parents can also attend regular program events that reinforce the work they do together at home. These sessions will help children prepare for and succeed in school, and help their parents continue a lifestyle of learning at home.


Staff will also work with parents to help them find meaningful employment that will lead to long-term stability for the entire family.  The two goals are considered keys to addressing the achievement gap among school children.

“In partnership with the United Way, these zones are making a direct impact in the lives of kids, aiding in their ability to succeed at both school and home,” said Parisi.  “Family by family, we are making a difference in lives of our young people, helping guide them on a path toward educational and life-long success.”


Also expanded in Parisi’s budget are services to help meet the housing needs of kids and families in Dane County.  Too many young people, from neighborhoods across the county, face challenges bouncing from apartments to rooms with relatives or friends during the school year.  Day to day uncertainty over where you’re sleeping – or studying – is not a recipe for success.

To address this rising need, the County Executive is investing $25,000 for a new “Youth Eviction Prevention” fund.  These dollars will be administered by Dane County’s successful “Joining Forces for Families” program and are intended to help create certainty and stabilization for families with school aged children.


Parisi will provide additional resources in his budget to address other housing challenges throughout the county, including a new partnership with the City of Madison that will help create more affordable housing and better coordination of homeless services.


With a Community Development Authority, the City is uniquely positioned to leverage outside financial resources and is moving forward on a potential development that could create 100 new affordable housing units.  Parisi’s capital budget includes $750,000 for the county to acquire the site for development of this collaborative project. 


Parisi is also creating the position of “Housing Inventory Specialist” in the Department of Planning and Development to be a resource to the county, city, and non-profits to collaborate in the smartest ways possible to identify and maximize available affordable housing options.


The County Executive’s budget works to further reduce homelessness with the creation of a new “Re-Entry Coordinator” in the Department of Human Services.  Often, when a person completes their jail sentence, they can struggle to re-enter the workforce and are unable to maintain a place to call home. 


The new Re-Entry Coordinator will work with those in jail – prior to their release – to identify potential barriers to success and ways to help those incarcerated reintegrate into their families and communities to prevent a return to the criminal justice system.  

Additional resources for older adults are included in Parisi’s 2014 budget as well, with creation of a new Elder Benefits Specialist position to connect more seniors with services, and $15,000 for the OutReach LGBT Community Center to expand its services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender elders in Dane County.  A $16,578 investment will backfill a federal government sequestration cut that, left unresolved, would have impacted the county’s ability to deliver warm meals to seniors in their communities.


Parisi’s budget adds to the county’s network of services for those with developmental disabilities (DD) –more than $83.5 million dollars in 2014, $13 million dollars of which is county general purpose revenue – and funds the living wage.


As previously announced, Parisi’s budget also helps ensure that construction of a new replacement for the only domestic violence shelter in Dane County, operated by Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS), will be completed on time in 2014.


Dane County is home to more than 500,000 residents and DAIS runs the county’s only shelter for victims of domestic violence and their children.  Their new facility will be four-times bigger than the current domestic violence shelter and will help survivors get their lives back on track and protect them from homelessness and further violence. 


DAIS will continue its fundraising efforts in the months ahead to fund the additional programming, staff, and outreach necessary to meet the growing needs of survivors of domestic violence in our community. 


The County Executive also previously announced an innovative new initiative to improve mental health services in area schools.  Parisi is creating two “Mental Health Rapid Response Teams” in Verona and Sun Prairie, respectively, that will put professionals in those schools to help de-escalate situations with students who suffer from mental illness.  Situations that teachers and police are often times required, but not sufficiently trained to address or remedy.




The County Executive’s 2014 public safety budget totals $68 million and continues an agreement with Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney to cap overtime expenses at 6.6% of total salaries. 


Parisi’s budget includes other public safety improvements including the complete replacement of nearly 20 outdoor storm warning sirens throughout Dane County.  The initiative is an expansion of work that began in the County Executive’s 2013 budget when he invested nearly $1 million to upgrade the county’s emergency warning systems.  Now complete, the upgraded warning systems include state of the art technology that sounds outdoor sirens in communities along a storm’s path; preventing sirens going off in Waunakee when the storm threat is in Sun Prairie and moving East, for example.


As previously announced, the County Executive’s 2014 public safety budget includes the dollars necessary to ensure the county is in a position to capitalize on opportunities for significant operating efficiencies in jail facilities while meeting proper federal standards. 


Jail space consultants hired this year have done a detailed analysis of the county’s three existing facilities – the City County Building, Public Safety Building, and the Ferris Center.  In the coming weeks they will complete a report suggesting smarter, more progressive ways to handle corrections in Dane County. 


These designs will allow for development of space to better serve our special needs jail populations – those with mental health or other disabilities and others with medical conditions at the root cause of their criminal behavior.  It will also foster development of enhanced inmate programming to reduce recidivism – slowing the revolving door of repeat offenders who find themselves in jail either through addiction or other correctable behaviors. 


The County Executive also previously announced a groundbreaking new program in his public safety budget to hold those who abuse alcohol accountable and reduce domestic violence and repeat DUI offenses.  Coordinated by Safe Communities, Parisi’s “Accountability 24-7” requires offenders sentenced to the program to appear twice a day at a designated time for a mandatory Breathalyzer test.


Failure of a Breathalyzer test will result in transportation to the Dane County jail and an appearance before a judge.  In one study of the program’s effectiveness in South Dakota, researchers documented a 12% reduction in repeat DUI arrests and a 9% reduction in repeat domestic violence arrests.


“Protecting our investment in public safety during uncertain budget times is critical to the safety of Dane County’s residents and communities,” said Parisi.  “My budget expands on the values that Sheriff Dave Mahoney and I share – using innovative, proven programs to address the root cause of incarceration and prevent people from returning to the criminal justice system.”




The County Executive’s 2014 budget includes critical investments in county infrastructure – from roads to the Dane County Regional Airport – that will strengthen communities and economic development in the region.


2014 will be an important year for significant county projects that have been under discussion for many years.  A new regional medical examiners complex just east of the Interstate/Beltline interchange will provide state of the art investigatory services in a regionalized model.  The county’s Medical Examiner’s Office serves families and law enforcement in Dane County and other Wisconsin counties –  with the potential to serve other states in the coming years. 


With the County’s team of doctors and staff, and a state-of-the-art facility designed to meet the demands of day to day operations and significant events, Dane County is well positioned to become the most elite medical examiner’s operation in the Upper Midwest. 


The office, led by Dr. Vincent Tranchida, conducted nearly 1300 death investigations last year – nearly 200 more than just two years earlier.   


Parisi’s budget includes the dollars needed to construct this new Medical Examiner’s facility as well as a new East District Highway Garage to maximize operational efficiencies.  It also includes revenue from La Crosse County for Dane County to provide administrative and autopsy services for all of 2014  -- expanding upon a recently announced mid-year pilot project.


The County Executive’s budget includes the most significant capital improvement project undertaken at the Dane County Regional Airport since completion of its new terminal building in 2006. 


The DCRA is an incredible asset to economic development in Dane County and the region.  DCRA airport employs thousands of people and has an estimated economic impact of $500 million, including $277 million in visitor spending. 


Last year, over 1.6 million passengers chose to travel from the county’s airport.  The successes of local companies like Epic and additional offerings of direct flights from here to all across the country have helped increase ridership and demands for parking.


Parisi’s budget funds construction of additional floors on the parking ramp at the airport –  a $35 million project that will create at least 1,600 new parking stalls, hundreds of new jobs in the coming year, and solidify the airport as the primary gateway to this region’s economic successes.


A major component of the County Executive’s comprehensive solid waste strategy, the expansion of the county’s landfill, will also move forward.


The expansion is one of the first requests Parisi’s administration received from Mayor Soglin after he was elected County Executive.  Madison is the largest single customer of the county’s landfill and Parisi’s budget reflects an agreement reached just last week between his administration and the city, ensuring the project moves forward with an equitable share of operating expenses covered by Madison and Dane County. 


Under this agreement, Madison will see tipping fee increases in each of the next three years and enter into a ten-year pact to bring its refuse to the county landfill.  This guarantee is the assurance the county needs prior to proceeding with a multi-million dollar landfill expansion. 


Parisi’s budget reduced the department’s recommended $10 per ton increase to Madison taxpayers by re-examining costs that had been billed to the county’s Solid Waste Fund – reallocating these expenses to general purpose revenue.  Parisi’s budget also reduces the current $10 charge at the County’s new year-round Clean Sweep site to $5 per visit.


Major reconstruction of Mineral Point Road and County Highway M on Madison’s west side took substantial steps forward this year.  Consistent with an agreement with the City of Madison, the county’s share of the next phase of this project, $3.65 million, is the largest single road project included in the County Executive’s capital highway budget.


Also included is the necessary engineering and design work on future aspects of the project, both on Highways M and PD.  Once complete, this major reconstruction will not only be a gateway to a major employer – Epic – but will also include modern bicycling facilities for those who choose to navigate Madison’s west side on two wheels. 


The County Executive’s budget continues his efforts to accommodate bike lane development as the county completes rural county highway projects.  Work on County Highway J will complete an important connection to the Military Ridge State Bike Trail from Riley. 


In anticipation of Dane County hosting Farm Technology Days in 2014, and at the request of other event organizers, the budget also funds the resurfacing of County Trunk V V and includes necessary planning dollars for upcoming work to re-do County Highway P near Cross Plains.  The county has secured federal dollars to complete the CTH P project, bike lanes included, in 2016.


A $2.3 million investment expands Parisi’s commitment to make the county “CNG by 2023” through the acquisition of 13 additional vehicles, eight of which are snowplows, fueled by the cheaper, cleaner BioCNG made from decaying trash at the county’s landfill.  The county currently has 30 CNG vehicles in its fleet.


The county’s CNG fleet costs taxpayers less to fill up (BioCNG costs the county only $1.25 a gallon) and because the fuel burns cleaner, maintenance costs on vehicles are reduced as well.  Thisswitch to CNG has offset the use of approximately 25,000 gallons of diesel and gasoline in the county fleet, saving county taxpayers roughly $50,000 annually.




Informed by recently completed work by his Climate Change Action Council, Parisi’s budget invests in the first steps of a multi-year adaptation effort to prepare county operations, and protect county residents, from an increasing trend of extreme weather events.


Scientists report that more 90 degree days, days of extreme heat in excess of 100 degrees, and intense storms that produce greater than two or three inches of rain in a short period of time are in our future.  These changes will tax public health, human services, the county’s infrastructure, and emergency resources.


To adapt, the County Executive’s budget creates a new fund in the highway department dedicated solely for the replacement of outdated culverts under roads.  These culverts help move runoff along after heavy rainfall.  Many aren’t equipped to handle the volume that comes with big storms – resulting in backups into valuable agricultural lands and in some cases, flooded highways. 


Increased flooding events means more water in places it shouldn’t be.  To ensure that the county is ready for the new norm of increased flooding events, Parisi will invest $10,000 to create a new emergency sandbag fund for Dane County Emergency Management.  Building a stockpile ready for flooding response will help communities and homeowners react quickly to the next high water event.


In each of the past two winters Dane County has experienced debilitating blizzards that have stranded motorists for hours and taxed public safety and public works resources.  At the direction of the County Executive, Dane County Park Rangers have become an integral part of the county’s response to severe snow events.  Last winter, these employees aided in search and rescue efforts on roads buried in drifts, and did household welfare checks on families stranded at home without power for, in some cases, 24 hours or longer. 


The county’s Park Rangers must have the tools necessary to aid in a well-coordinated emergency response effort when called upon.  Parisi’s budget funds acquiring radios to include Dane County Parks on the new “DaneCom” interoperable radio system and new “Blizzard Buster” technology – track systems to prevent the rangers’ off-road trucks from getting stuck in any condition – whether it be several feet of snow or the lowest wetlands in our parks.


Also at Parisi’s direction, the county took steps this year to improve the ability of county vehicles to respond to emergencies in adverse conditions.  This year’s fleet of new sheriff’s squad cars are all four-wheel drive police interceptors – a marked change from the long standing tradition of acquiring only sedans for rural patrol deputies. 


As a result, the county now has 16 new four-wheel drive vehicles ready to deploy during this winter’s toughest conditions, and with an additional $521,000 investment from the County Executive in his 2014 budget, stand ready to order additional vehicles next year.


In addition to adapting to climate change, Dane County will continue to be a leader in the coming year at reducing its impact on the world around us – from manure digesters on dairy farms, to capturing methane from the landfill and turning it into millions of dollars to support critical public services, to expanding the county’s vehicle fleet to run on cleaner, cheaper compressed natural gas.


The County Executive will continue his focus on increasing sustainability throughout county government in his 2014 budget, including strategies that economize use of lighting, heating, and cooling systems.  Modernization of these systems is good for both taxpayers and the environment. 


Parisi will make one of the county’s least efficient facilities one of its most efficient with $1.6 million in improvements to the county Human Services building on Northport Drive in Madison.  This facility currently has 38 different heating and cooling units that are several decades old. 


Replacing these systems and installing automated and LED lighting are just a few examples of concrete steps the County Executive will take to make Northport run at peak efficiency.  Solar panels on the roof and other retrofitting will save the county tens of thousands in utility expenses each year.




The County Executive’s budget contains an operating budget of $508 million. 


While, under state law, the county’s levy for next year could increase up to 3.64%, the annual levy increase in Parisi’s budget is 3.3%.


The 2013 budget proposes an increase of $18.39 on the average Madison home.  County taxes comprise about 15% of the annual property tax bill of a City of Madison resident.


The capital budget totals $44.7 million, $15-million of which is for development of a new regional medical examiner’s complex and dollars needed for continued planning and potential site acquisition for a more operationally efficient county jail.


Dane County saved over $700,000 for the 2014 budget by working with its employees.  The county saved $270,000 by assigning the county’s health insurance contract to WEA Trust.  Once again, many of the county’s workforce voluntarily agreed to take unpaid leave next year, saving almost $200,000.  County employees saved the county another $300,000 by completing health risk assessments as prescribed by our insurance contract. 


These savings, combined with improved economic related revenues – including $293,000 from the Register of Deeds – contributed to a budget that invests and protects vital services without any workforce layoffs. 



The County Executive’s budget will now be sent to the Dane County Board for review and approval.  Parisi has been reaching out to Dane County Supervisors throughout the budget process to incorporate their ideas and goals into his proposal.


Historically, county committees meet in October to review the proposal and bring it to the full board for final approval in Mid-November.  The County Executive has the power to approve, veto, or partially veto the spending plan that is returned to him.


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