This month, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi introduced his 2022 County Budget: Meeting the Challenge. It works to address the impact of COVID-19, while continuing to prioritize mental health, public safety, conservation, human services, quality of life, efforts to combat climate change, and much more. From new road projects to exciting enhancements to outdoor spaces, the Waunakee community will benefit from a variety of county funding in 2022.

“There are plenty of reasons to feel overwhelmed during this challenging time, but as a lifelong member of this community, I know moments that test our spirit are often the impetus for some of our greatest successes, innovation, and stories of human compassion. Dane County government will continue to lead with progressive, new templates for public services that meet the needs of our communities and our people,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “My 2022 budget makes investments to help our community recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, serve vulnerable residents, maintain public safety through infrastructure improvements, combat climate change, preserve our outdoor spaces, and much more.”

In a press release Thursday, the county executive's office laid out the initiatives within the budget.

COVID-19

Parisi is setting aside $5.25 million in American Rescue and Recovery Funds in this budget process for the unknown pandemic related expenses that will no doubt emerge in the year ahead. This safety net is critical to county government maintaining its ability to respond to acute, sometimes unexpected needs from the pandemic as they arise.

County Executive Parisi is also extending Dane County’s popular Emergency Food Pandemic Response partnership with Second Harvest, which bolsters the production and distribution of locally grown foods. To date, Dane County has allocated over $23 million to stock the shelves of local food pantries with locally sourced products. The 2022 budget adds another $1 million to this effort.

Known as the Hotels to Housing program, this multi-agency partnership aims to assist up to 297 households experiencing homelessness with housing search assistance, case management, and funds to help pay housing costs for up to two years. Since the program began in late June of 2021, more than 90 people have moved from hotel shelter and into permanent housing of their own. Parisi’s budget continues this program through 2022 with an $8.2 million investment.

Public Safety

As Dane County continues to grow, it is important that its roads be upgraded to maintain public safety. County Executive Parisi’s budget includes $2 million for construction of Hwy. M from Oncken Road to Bluebill, which will convert to a four lane highway. It will be a joint project with the Town of Westport. $1.9 million will go to resurface Hwy. V from Hwy KP to State Hwy 113. $110,000 will go to expand the intersection of County Hwys. M and PB. The City of Verona will partner with Dane County in this effort. All told, $15.6 million is going to a variety of projects across Dane County in 2022 to prioritize highway maintenance and safety.

The Safe Communities “Recovery Coach” program saw a 55% increase in its work in 2021, in part because it was a leading point of referral for individuals who connected with the county’s Behavioral Health Resource Center looking for help. All told, Dane County has invested over $420,000 each year on this meaningful, yet time intensive recovery work that links someone struggling from addiction with an advocate to help them navigate the many pitfalls of the treatment, healing, and recovery process. Parisi is adding $100,000 in the budget for more recovery coaches to carry out this important work.

Dane County is debuting new mental health response tools, trainings, and processes for Dane County Sheriff’s deputies in the 2022 budget. County Executive Parisi is allocating $250,000 to launch a new virtual mental health program. Deputies will carry tablets to virtually link mental health professionals to those experiencing crisis in real time. On the other side of the screen will be a trained social worker who can address whatever precipitated the law enforcement response. Once situations are stabilized, this professional can stay connected to the individual in crisis and help refer them to Dane County’s Behavioral Health Resource Center for follow-up on treatment. These new dollars cover the cost of clinical staff, tablets, and remote WiFi modems.

Mental Health

Dane County’s school based mental health teams are in 10 school districts, providing critical behavioral health resources in support of over-worked school counselors and mental health professionals. Dane County invests over $1 million annually in Building Bridges. Parisi is allocating another $500,000 next year for additional mental health professionals in schools to help educators and students navigate the unknowns of Covid-19. These dollars will be available to school districts interested in expanding the existing “Building Bridges” model and getting more mental health professionals, social workers, and counselors into schools.

The 2022 budget allocates $10 million for site acquisition, planning, and development of the Crisis Triage Center. This one stop facility will help keep individuals out of the criminal justice system and directly link them with services customized to address the barriers they face. Parisi is dedicating an additional $1 million to help meet service and operational needs when the Crisis Triage Center opens. The facility will become among a handful of such crisis centers in the country dedicated to stabilizing individuals and improving outcomes in a comprehensive manner. Individuals will be able to get help from the Crisis Triage Center by a referral from community partners, being brought in by law enforcement, or walking in themselves.

Conservation & Water Quality

County Executive Parisi’s 2022 budget includes $200,000 for improvements at Schumacher Farm, along with building improvements. These types of investments in outdoor spaces enhance Dane County residents’ quality of life and create new experiences for visitors to enjoy year after year.

Next year, communities like Waunakee will also be able to apply for countywide grant programs like the Dane County PARC and Ride Fund and Urban Water Quality Grant Fund. PARC & Ride grants support development of regional bicycle trails that are identified in the Dane County Parks & Open Space Plan. Local units of government and nonprofit organizations are eligible to apply, with $222,000 being made available in 2022. Urban Water Quality grants continue to be an effective tool at tackling phosphorus and other runoff from urban sources. Parisi’s budget includes $750,000 in new money for these grants in 2022.

Some $2.5 million is being included in next year’s budget to expand the Continuous Cover Program, where interest by farmers and rural property owners remains high. The popular program helps to preserve lands from the ongoing pressures of development, reduce run-off, and mitigate the effects of climate change. To date, Dane County has protected 1,600 acres of land. 40% of the lands in the program are used for grazing, 30% are in a cool season grass mix, and 30% have been converted to native prairie for pollinators and wildlife habitat.

Research by Dane County staff discovered that legacy phosphorus concentrations in the streambed sediments flowing into the Yahara Lakes are seven times greater than nearby crop fields. These phosphorus concentrations are delivered to area lakes, fueling algae blooms that cause beach closings and the unsightly smells and sights to those who recreate in, on, and around area lakes.

To date, Dane County’s “Suck the Muck” program has extracted 31,000 tons of sediment containing over 100,000 pounds of phosphorus from Dorn and Token Creeks. The next phase of sediment removal from Six Mile Creek, located in the Town of Westport, is expected to begin in the fall of 2021, with dredging to start in the spring of 2022. Parisi is putting an additional $500,000 in the budget for “Suck the Muck” next year, bringing the total invested on this water quality project to $12 million since 2017.

Climate Change

The renewable fuel injected into the pipeline at the Dane County Landfill comes from rotting trash and renewable natural gas brought in from manure digesters. It powers trucks and vehicles across the region, reducing diesel and carbon emissions. Since Dane County launched its compressed natural gas (CNG) initiative, almost half of its fleet of 60 highway snowplows are now powered by CNG. Across all of county government, there are now 100 CNG vehicles and 17 electric vehicles and hybrids. County Executive Parisi’s 2022 budget expands this initiative with over $5 million for the purchase of CNG trailers to help fuel up the Dane County Highway fleet in areas of the county where compressed natural gas filling stations are less available.

Additionally, Parisi is including nearly $2 million for installation of a new CNG filling station at the Fish Hatchery Road Highway garage and $3.2 million for the purchase of eight more CNG powered snow plows. All told, this more than $10 million investment in clean fuel infrastructure further reduces Dane County’s reliance on diesel and expands the reach of renewables into more rural parts of the county. This will make Dane County’s fleet of plows more efficient, both in their energy consumption and reduced time needed for refueling.

Budget by the Numbers

County Executive Parisi’s 2022 operating budget totals $659.6 million, while the capital spending plan comes in at $88.2 million, with the largest expense being construction of the new Crisis Triage Center. The budget includes a levy increase of 3.9%. The taxes on an average Madison home total $966.09, an increase of $63.99. The budget for Dane County Human Services comprises the most significant piece of the operating budget, totaling $273.9 million for next year, or roughly 42% of the entire budget. The budget includes a 4.5% contract increase for purchase of service agencies that assist the county with the programming it provides for individuals and families.

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