Dane County Executive Joe Parisi released his full 2023 budget proposal today, prioritizing support services and criminal justice reform.
The total proposed budget comes out to $834 million, with an operating budget of over $712 million, and a capital spending budget of around $121 million. The proposed budget is an over 10% increase from the 2022 budget, or around $80 million more.
To pay for this increased budget, the average Madison home will see their taxes raised by around $30.
Executive Parisi released his budget at a press conference held at the Second Harvest Food Bank, highlighting the need for increased access to food in Dane County. The proposed budget includes an additional $6 million in funding for the Second Harvest Food Bank’s “Farm to Foodbank” program, which connects local farmers with food banks to provide fresh produce to people in need.
Executive Parisi says that this money will help the food bank to continue to provide a proven good.
“Our partnership has brought in and boxed up over $20 million in food for families across the county. With the ‘Farm to Foodbank’ program, Second Harvest has placed over $16 million in food orders with local farmers and producers, and in partnership with 165 partner agencies, distributed over 10.5 million pounds of locally grown and sourced food,” Parisi says.
In addition to funding to Second Harvest, the proposed budget also includes $1.5 million to the county’s largest food pantry, The River Food Pantry, in order to build a new home for the pantry.
Parisi’s proposed budget also includes $1.3 million to focus on criminal justice reform. That will involve a new independent Department of Justice Reform and Equity. That department will be tasked with running a community court program, which Parisi says builds on some of the County’s prior work in restorative justice.
“In 2015, we created the Tamera Grigsby Office of Equity and Inclusion. We decriminalized marijuana, added juvenile justice staff to work directly with young people at risk, and funded various mentoring programs designed to show alternatives to negative behaviors. Thanks to the leadership of former supervisor Shelia Stubbs, Dane County’s Community Restorative Court continues to provide sound alternatives to incarceration to those ages 17-25 who commit crimes or municipal citations,” Parisi says.
The budget looks to create a pilot program for the Community Court, providing a more community-oriented approach to criminal behavior as an alternative to incarceration.
While the details of the program will be decided if the program makes it through budget deliberations, the Community Court would create a link between the criminal justice system and established support systems, such as those for mental health, substance abuse, employment, and housing.
To achieve this, the budget includes around $121,000 for a Community Court Coordinator, who would work with programs in the community to create the program.
Notably absent from the budget is increased funding for the Dane County Jail Consolidation Project. As inflation continues to drive up the price tag for a new Dane County Jail, the county is about $10 million short of what they need to build the jail. While multiple plans went before the County Board in August to either increase funding or scale back the project, all three proposed changes failed.
But regardless as to whether the jail project moves forward, Parisi warns against losing sight of creating a more equitable criminal justice system.
“As we build upon and expand our commitment to criminal justice reform, the time has come to cement our commitment and state unequivocally that criminal justice reform must be, forever, a priority for Dane County Government,” Parisi says.
Budget deliberations will begin this week, with the full board expected to approve the budget in early November.
Photo courtesy: Nate Wegehaupt / WORT News Team