Dane County Executive Joe Parisi

Parisi

Touting the slogan, “Opportunity Out of Adversity,” Dane County Executive Joe Parisi signed the 2023 county budget on Wednesday, Nov. 16.

According to a county news release, the $853 million dollar spending plan works to “prioritize life’s basic needs, housing, mental health supports, restorative justice, conservation initiatives, and more.”

The budget includes $15.6 million for the county’s share of road improvement projects, as well as an inflationary adjustment for the county workforce, sized near the most recent data available on the federal consumer price index.

Dane County and Second Harvest’s “Farm to Foodbank” program created during the pandemic will receive $6 million, as well as $1.5 million for The River Food Pantry to help Dane County’s largest pantry grow and meet increasing needs. This $7.5 million in the budget to help eliminate food insecurity among low income and underserved communities is the largest area of new dollars in Parisi’s budget, according to the news release.

The budget adds over $484,000 to increase staff at the Behavioral Health Resource Center to improve response time and customer service, and more than $1.3 million to inform next steps once the county completes an evaluation of different models on how the Crisis Triage Center could operate. The center will provide around the clock, short-term observation, assessment, treatment, and planning for those experiencing a behavioral health crisis, according to the news release.

“The past few years of a pandemic, and more recently poverty exacerbated by inflation, serve as frank reminders of the need to always plan for tomorrow,” Parisi said. “The 2023 Dane County budget builds upon the work we’ve done over the past decade and offers a roadmap to further improve the care and well-being of our most vulnerable, accelerate efforts to combat climate change, advance new reforms to address disparities, and protect our incredibly valuable land and water resources.”

2023 budget highlights

Housing:

  • $10 million for the Dane County Affordable Housing Development Fund.
  • $91,700 for an additional housing specialist within Dane County’s Joining Forces for Families.
  • $4.82 million to raise the county’s funding support to purchase of service agencies.
  • A $6 million investment for a new permanent shelter for men experiencing homelessness.

Mental Health/Addiction Services:

  • $135,000 to support Anesis Therapy and Journey Mental Health’s new BIPOC Mental Health Coalition.
  • $500,000 for the Sheriff’s Office to expand its team of mobile crisis workers and an additional $190,000 for civilian vehicles and equipment so staff can directly respond to incidents where a mental health professional, not a law enforcement officer alone, is what’s needed to defuse a situation.
  • $283,500 for the Harm Reduction and Prevention Act, including funding a new full-time position at OutReach and a new prevention specialist within Dane County Emergency Management.

Restorative Justice:

  • creating the Dane County Department of Justice Reform and Equity, a dedicated, independent resource to bridge agencies within the criminal justice system and lead Dane County’s next steps on data driven reforms.
  • $85,000 for a new reentry partnership with Dane County and Project Big Step to help those leaving jail with job training that can lead to careers in the trades.
  • The budget also jumpstarts the creation of a new Dane County Community Court.

Climate Change:

  • $4.5 million for the development and installation of carbon capture technologies and a new position in the Department of Waste & Renewables to work on accelerating Dane County’s path to carbon neutrality.
  • $92,600 for the Office of Energy and Climate Change to further ramp up Dane County’s focus on becoming carbon neutral, and track emissions and energy data.
  • $900,000 to start work on three energy saving projects at county facilities next year.

Conservation:

  • $2 million in the budget so Dane County can carry out its “Suck the Muck” initiative at Door Creek and its surrounding wetlands.
  • $3 million for the Yahara Chain of Lakes Sediment Removal Project and two more full time dredging positions
  • $2 million to continue Dane County’s Continuous Cover Program.
  • $10 million to the Dane County Conservation Fund for further acquisitions that help improve water quality and allow opportunities for prairie and wildlife restoration.
  • $2.5 million to construct phase two of the Lower Yahara River Trail, a section from Fish Camp County Park through Lake Kegonsa State Park.

Contact reporter Scott De Laruelle @sdelaruelle@orourkemediagroup.com

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