City Cast

Understanding Madison’s 2024 Budget

Hayley Sperling
Hayley Sperling
Posted on October 30
Wisconsin State Capitol building, Madison, WI - stock photo

The city's budgetary outlook is grim, due partially to state funding structures. (Walter Bibikow / Getty Images)

When announcing the city’s 2024 Executive Operating Budget, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway described the future of Madison’s budgeting as “pretty bleak.”

To be clear, the city isn’t in trouble right now. In fact, the Madison area has shown major signs of economic growth this year — think rising housing prices, low unemployment, construction everywhere.

But the city is tightening its belt. The 2024 executive budget called for every city department to cut their budgets by 1%. In practice, this comes in the form of spending cuts and holding job vacancies open for longer periods of time, Madison Finance Director Dave Schmiedicke said on the City Cast Madison podcast.

What About the Covid-19 Money?

The city received $47.2 million of federal funding through the State and Local Recovery Funds component of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

According to Schmiedicke, half of that money went directly to community recovery efforts, which included funds for the new men’s shelter in Madison, rental assistance for residents and businesses, and youth violence prevention programming.

The other half of the Covid-19 relief funds help maintain city government services, Schmiedicke said. The city knew building its revenue back to pre-pandemic levels would be a challenge. Using pandemic funding to plug holes in the 2024 budget has bought the city more time to come up with new revenue streams. But the last of that money will be used in the coming year. So expect to see more fees in the future.

Future Outlooks

When it comes to raising money, the city is trying to get creative with its options, because it knows it can’t rely on the state for more cash.

Despite the state government’s move to give municipalities more funding through “shared revenue,” Madison ranks at the bottom of the financial allocations.

Madison is also looking to its contemporaries for ideas — places like Lincoln, Nebraska, Columbus, Ohio, and Austin, Texas. Schmiedicke said the idea of a city sales tax, like Milwaukee just passed, has been discussed but wants to ensure any additional costs to residents are imposed equitably.

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