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Roadwork drives Madison’s 2010 budget

Paul Snyder
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Road construction projects throughout Madison are poised to get a financial boost in 2010, but building projects might be less fortunate.

Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said the 2010 capital budget he will introduce to the Common Council on Tuesday will include $33 million for the city’s street rebuilding program — a 15 percent increase from the amount he allotted last year.

“When I started the budget process, I asked for a 20 percent spending reduction throughout city departments,” Cieslewicz said. “I got that, and it left room for me to do other things, like focus more on streets.”

But more spending on roads could signal a tough battle for building projects.

Cieslewicz said he was unprepared to discuss if or how much the city would spend on major building projects planned throughout Madison, including Madison-based The Fiore Cos. Inc.’s plans for a $43.6 million Central Library.

But Brookfield-based Hammes Co.’s estimated $100 million redevelopment of the Edgewater Hotel, for which the developer is requesting $16.8 million in city help, will get $8 million in the mayor’s proposed 2010 budget. Another $8 million will be set aside in the 2011 budget.

Alderman Paul Skidmore said decisions on building projects could draw battle lines for the Common Council.

“I can’t argue with the increased investment in streets,” he said. “But when it comes to building projects, we are going to have to pick and choose with the limited dollars we have.”

Cieslewicz confirmed two more building projects in his budget proposal: a $2 million police training facility and a $2.5 million police district substation on the city’s north side.

But Alderman Michael Schumacher said the proposed training center might be unnecessary because Madison Area Technical College offers training resources.

“I think we still need to know why we need it,” he said, “especially if there are opportunities for more regional collaboration.”

Schumacher, like Skidmore, said he supported the increased spending on roads, adding it is vital to attracting people to Madison.

But he also said increasing money for roads will make it more difficult to decide which building projects get the city’s financial support.

“I don’t want to single out the Edgewater proposal alone, but that’s one example of a project where I’m not yet convinced the (tax-incremental financing) investment is appropriate,” Schumacher said. “When it comes to the library, I also think pencils need to be sharpened to bring that price down to a more reasonable level.”

The city expected construction cuts since the start of the budget process, with money from building permits projected to drop below $3 million for the first time in five budgets.

But Cieslewicz said the spending cuts made by city departments allowed him to reduce the city’s expected borrowing amounts for projects by $2 million.

Such figures are important because the city is dealing with lower revenue and decreased state aid, Skidmore said, but it does not signal easy approval at the Common Council level.

“I don’t envy the mayor,” he said. “This is a tough year to try to put a budget together, and it’s going to be a tough road ahead.”

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