Madison Mayor Paul Soglin released the capital portion of his 2014 budget proposal Tuesday, slowing down progress on some projects, but moving ahead on what he says "could be the largest public project we ever do as a city" -- Judge Doyle Square.
The capital budget covers large-scale projects, most of which require borrowing. The operating budget, which outlines day-to-day city spending, will be released later this fall.
Soglin proposes a $225.3 million capital budget, an increase of about $33 million from this year. The budget includes $179 million for new projects. If approved by the Common Council, the city would borrow roughly $112.8 million and get $112.6 million from other funding sources, such as water utility fees, state and federal grants. About $20 million of the borrowing is for old projects the city already approved, but has yet to complete.
In a news conference Tuesday, Soglin said, "While this is the largest capital budget I've submitted, it pushes back many important projects that are a priority for keeping our city great."
But he is moving ahead on the controversial Judge Doyle Square project, which includes an underground parking ramp, a hotel for Monona Terrace Convention Center, offices, retail and housing. It also will include renovating the nearby Municipal Building. Next year, Soglin proposes providing $2.2 million to plan for the Municipal Building renovation and $7 million for planning for the parking component of Judge Doyle Square.
"It's a very complicated project, it's important for the future of the city, it has a tremendous economic impact and it's going to require some tough decisions, in particular as to the use of the… Municipal Building," said Soglin.
The mayor said he was forced to slow down on some projects. For instance, he is proposing $3.5 million for a public market, but that would only be enough to identify and buy a site, not begin construction.
"Best case scenario, we'd be able to identify a site and acquire a site," he said. "I'd like to do a lot more. This is something I think is so important to the city on so many levels. But choices have to be made. This is one that's a real high priority for me personally, but it's going to have to wait."
Also getting put on hold is planning for a new Pinney Branch library. The lease on the current building runs out in 2015 and residents have urged Soglin to begin planning for a new building next year. He has delayed that planning process until 2015.
The city's plans to build a biodigester are getting pushed back until at least 2016. "When we look at the cost of constructing a biodigester and fit it into long-term needs, it simply has to be pushed back a year or two," he said. "This is the reality of the world we're living in."
Not everything is getting delayed. The mayor is moving ahead with plans to build a splash park at Elver Park ($700,000 in 2014), planning to reuse the Garver Feed Mill ($3.65 million next year), a new fire administration building ($13.9 million in 2014), planning for a new midtown police precinct ($1.2 million in 2014), and renovations for Monona Terrace ($2.25 million). The biggest chunks of new spending are on various street projects ($32.9 million) and water utility projects ($27.1 million).
The city's current debt is about $350 million, not including the proposed 2014 projects, says David Schmiedicke, the city's finance director.
Soglin boasted that he's reined in city borrowing. "A number of years ago, the forecast was that by 2014 our debt service would hit 20% of the city budget," he said. "We've now got the debt service down to 14% of the city budget. I think that's real good news."
"The other good news is that despite the restraints we have, there is a lot that we're doing."
Read the 2014 Executive Capital Budget summary issued by Soglin.