City-County Building (copy) (copy) (copy)

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway is laying the groundwork for the 2023 Capital Budget and Capital Improvement Plan.

In a recent memo to city department and division leaders, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway laid the groundwork for her 2023 capital budget — prioritizing fiscal responsibility, new projects and plans for when the town of Madison merges with the city in October 2022. 

Rhodes-Conway said budget proposals should be focused on investments in community and neighborhoods as they should be in the future, rather than focusing on how to preserve the current state or a return to pre-pandemic conditions.

“Continuing the status quo is not a sufficient justification for capital investment. I will be looking for proposals that help the city confront housing, transit, climate change, and equity challenges,” she said in the memo.

She suggested city officials adjust costs to account for inflation in a March 22 email, obtained by the Cap Times, on agency guidance for the 2023 capital budget and capital improvement plan. 

Despite best efforts, the city has seen a spike in inflation in recent months and lingering effects from the COVID-19 pandemic, like supply chain issues and workforce shortages, remain as well.

“The unprovoked military invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the economic sanctions leveled in response by much of the world have further impacted the near-term economic outlook,” Rhodes-Conway said. “The interconnectedness of our global economy is more evident now than ever before, and will have ripple effects in the city.”

She added the challenges recognized pre-pandemic in housing, transportation and climate have not gone away. 

Federal funding is key to the city’s recovery from the pandemic. Madison received over $47 million of direct aid from the American Rescue Plan, which will support various community investments — including the city’s permanent men’s shelter, services for vulnerable residents, small business support, ongoing government services and millions for an emergency rental assistance program to keep people in their homes.

Additionally, President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill from 2021 invests over $550 billion across the country of new funding for roads, bridges, transit, rail, water and broadband infrastructure. 

Wisconsin is slated to receive billions of federal dollars from the bill, and Madison will get $6.4 million from the bill to rebuild and restore the city’s metro maintenance facility, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced in March.  

Rhodes-Conway has directed city staff teams to seek every dollar possible from the infrastructure bill to advance projects in the current capital improvement plan and on the "horizon list" — projects with a clear community purpose that were not fully planned to be considered and funded within the fiscal capacity in the 2022 budget.

“While we take on ambitious projects, we cannot lose sight of the continuing need to focus our resources toward combating structural racism in our economy,” Rhodes-Conway said. “Federal programs will be focused on delivering at least 40% of the overall benefits from federal investments in climate and clean energy to disadvantaged communities.

“In a very similar way, the city’s 2023 capital budget and capital improvement plan will continue to look at investments through the lenses of equity, sustainability and climate resilience.”

She emphasized the importance of taking bold action to invest in affordable housing, transit, climate resilience and sustainability and equity as planning begins for the 2023 capital budget.

“We have the opportunity to set the trajectory for Madison’s growth and recovery, but we can only build back better if we address systemic inequities and improve the lives of all residents, especially those who have been historically marginalized,” she said. 

Rhodes-Conway laid out the following advice for agencies:

Related to fiscal responsibility and planning:

  • Agencies must prioritize their requests and should scrutinize projects approved in the 2022 improvement plan to ensure the timeline and funding requests are realistic and reflect current plans.

  • Program costs should be adjusted to account for inflation and reflect realistic cost estimates.

  • Any changes in funding level or project schedule from 2022 must be clearly explained and justified.

Related to prioritization and strategic alignment:

  • Agencies will need to answer questions on racial equity and social justice, climate resilience and sustainability, alignment with strategic plans and operating impacts to create a holistic view of the request and explain how the request advances city priorities.

Related to new projects and the horizon list:

  • New projects must be conceptualized to the point that a complete budget proposal can be submitted.

  • Agencies may submit requests to add projects to the horizon list if a project is forthcoming but is not fully scoped.

Related to the town of Madison attachment:

  • Agencies may submit requests for new areas of the city that will be added through the town of Madison attachment in October 2022.

  • Requests may include expanding existing capital projects or creating new projects.

Madison and Fitchburg will absorb the town of Madison on Oct. 31, 2022, according to the city of Madison

The plan has been in the works for nearly two decades and the city has recently taken steps to prepare for the annexation and gain 5,000 new residents. Rhodes-Conway’s 2022 budget included $1.4 million to start extending services to the new residents. 

As the city approaches the “official day of attachment,” it is important for the town residents who will be affected to be in the know, Rhodes-Conway said in May 2021

“(We) want the town of Madison residents, businesses and property owners to feel welcome, prepared and informed,” she said. 

In her March email, Rhodes-Conway praised city staff and officials for continually rising to challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, continuing to provide basic services while adapting how they serve residents and working to advance an equitable recovery in the community.

“Building the city’s 2023 capital budget offers opportunities to help Madison be a community where all residents can thrive,” she said. “I appreciate your continued creativity and innovation and your wise stewardship of our collective resources.”

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.