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Equity audit officially underway in McFarland

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Village of McFarland

Consultants hired to conduct an equity audit in McFarland have revealed further details on some areas of the village they plan to study.

Dr. Rainey Briggs, who was hired by the village in June alongside fellow consultant Percy Brown Jr., said at a Sept. 14 Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) subcommittee meeting that the duo will gather “quantitative data” from nine main village categories.

Briggs said the purpose of an equity audit is to, “vet out whether the way that things are being done makes sense… and how we can approve or change things in a way that’s going to bring the outcomes that we want to see.”

First on the list for analysis in the audit is the McFarland police department. Briggs said the consultants plan to gather data on the demographic makeup of citations given, arrests made, and 911 calls received in the village.

In response to a question from Patrick Miles, chair of the subcommittee, on whether or not demographic data is actually collected from 911 calls when they’re received by dispatch, Briggs said the consultants will mainly be focused on analyzing response times to those 911 calls.

On top of looking at police calls, fire and rescue calls will also be analyzed, largely for which specific neighborhoods that fire and rescue calls are typically dispatched to. Additionally, access to affordable housing and the demographics of homeownership in McFarland will be considered.

From an economic standpoint, the consultants will also analyze the demographics of businesses and business owners throughout the village, as well as a dive into the parks and recreation budget and the presence of McFarland parks near affordable housing neighborhoods.

The audit will then shift its focus to the McFarland School District, to look at the demographic breakdown of academic and reading proficiency across the district, behavioral discipline and police intervention in school buildings.

Village construction will be an additional pocket of the audit, namely with a breakdown of the municipality’s contract bidding process, Briggs said.

Lastly, the consultants plan to also focus on McFarland’s senior outreach services, studying services such as case management, nutrition, health and wellness activities, educational programs, and social groups.

At last week’s DEI subcommittee meeting, Briggs spoke on how the consultants chose those nine areas of the village to focus on.

“What we wanted to do is think about the different groups in the village that really represent the village,” he said. “Given what each of those groups’ purpose is… that’s how we kind of came up with the different pieces of the equity audit that we wanted to focus on.”

As the consultants get the audit underway, Miles said their work will “provide a baseline to measure change” in the village.

Village Administrator Matt Schuenke said the total cost for the consulting services will be $43,000. That cost will be split between this year’s budget and next year’s budget.

Briggs and Brown Jr. are contracted with the village through June 2022.

Briggs and Percy Jr. will join the DEI subcommittee at its Oct. 20 meeting to provide another update on the audit’s progress.

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