City Budget: Is the Sky Still Falling?
by Brandi Makuski City-Times Editor
Last October area residents came out in droves to protest proposed cuts to ball diamond maintenance and school crossing guard programs. The cuts, said to have been a last option in anticipation of state- level funding changes, would be only the start of more bad news to come, according to some city officials.
“Madison takes it upon themselves to tell us what we can and can’t do. Is that good or bad, well, that’s for you to figure out for yourself,” said Mayor Halverson in an exclusive interview after one listening session last year.
City officials also said other community programs, such as tree- planting and the city municipal pool, could be next on the chopping block.
Halverson indicated city finances were so poor an operational referendum might become a necessity by mid- summer, leaving the hefty decision on voters as to program cuts and other funding quagmires.
But today, officials say they have a much brighter view of the city pocketbook.
“At this point, unless there’s a major change in Madison, I don’t foresee a necessity in that (a referendum),” said City Assessor John Schlice.
“That being said, we haven’t fully run the numbers for next year,” he said, adding, “But the preliminary indications are it’ll be a little smoother.”
During last year’s budget process, residents learned two summer programs- swimming and tennis lessons- would be lost from the city’s recreation department, but Parks, Rec. & Forestry Director Tom Schrader said those programs have been taken over by other local entities.
“I think swim lessons at the schools are cheaper anyway,” he said, adding the city pool would open as planned in June, but the city’s ice arena would not be open during summer months.
Shrader also said while a lot of city departments did feel a pinch but it’s nothing new, and the city still offers quality-of-life services that mean so much to local residents and tourists alike.
“Over the last five years, rec. department programs have been phased out, so it’s not like there’s a drastic cut,” he said.
“Some people might say, ‘Oh, I still remember when they had all these programs’, but a lot of them are being run either through another group or a private individual.”
“The programs are still there.”