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Sunday, January 25, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 24.0° F  Partly Cloudy
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Alder wants new downtown Madison library donors to pony up
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Schumacher: "Everyone should have a little blood at stake."
Schumacher: "Everyone should have a little blood at stake."

Ald. Michael Schumacher, in a proposed amendment to the city's capital budget, tried to put the question of whether to fund a new library to the residents in a referendum. The city's Board of Estimates voted down that amendment.

Now, Schumacher is trying a new tack. His latest amendment, released Thursday, reads, "The city will not enter into binding development and construction agreements for this project until commitments for tax credit financing and $4 million of private fundraising have been secured."

The $43 million library proposal recommended by the library board and supported by Mayor Dave Cieslewicz is a design by Fiore that calls for a new six-story building at Henry Street and West Washington Avenue. The proposal calls for $10 million to be raised through private donations, with the city borrowing the rest.

But Schumacher -- along with co-sponsors Jed Sanborn and Paul Skidmore -- would like the private donors to put their money where their mouths are. "I don't want to kill the library. In fact, I support the library," he says. "Four million is a good amount to request up front. If people from the foundation know they need to collect $4 million, the big donors are going to come out right away. We can gamble on the other $6 million."

Terrie Goren, executive director of the Madison Public Library Foundation, which would be leading the fund-raising effort, declined to comment on the amendment, other than to say she's talking with city staff about the feasibility of coming up with $4 million up front. She referred questions to Library Board president Tripp Widder, who could not be reached for comment.

Schumacher says he's heard some comments that raising $4 million in this economy will be tough. "I chuckled, because they're making the case for the amendment," he says. "The bottom line is $4 million is a comfort zone for those constituents, including myself, who believe everyone should have a little blood at stake. If they claim it's going to be tough to get $4 million, then why would they come to us and say they're going to raise $10 million?"

In another library amendment, alds. Mike Verveer, Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, Satya Rhodes-Conway, Marsha Rummel and Brian Solomon are asking the city staff to look into the feasibility of including either a roof-top garden or a green roof to the library.

The Common Council will begin its special budget deliberations on Tuesday, Nov. 10, at 5:30 p.m. in the City County Building. Meetings are also scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, both at 5:30 p.m.

All the capital budget amendments can be read here (PDF), and the operating budget amendments here (PDF).

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