County officials are touting a slimmed-down budget with lower property taxes and increased emphasis on mental health, housing, criminal justice and flood relief.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi signed the 2019 county budget Wednesday, Nov. 14, after the County Board made a few additions to his proposed budget Nov. 12.

In a news release, Parisi said the county has “taken steps to improve our quality of life, increase opportunity for all, and invest in our infrastructure, all while reducing property taxes.”

“Dane County continues to lead by example with our shared values,” he said

The $630.1 million budget represents the smallest increase (0.8 percent) in the operating portion of the levy since 1991, the release said, and is estimated to reduce the average county homeowner around $8.10.

On Monday, the County Board added to Parisi’s budget proposal funding for “front-end” justice initiatives, affordable housing and lake health, board chair Sharon Corrigan said in the release, adding that community input was an important part of the process.

“Individuals were able to testify at three public hearings of the full County Board as well as 17 committee meetings dedicated to review of the 2019 budget,” she said. “Supervisors also heard from their constituents throughout the process via phone calls, email and social media.”

Personnel and Finance committee chair Patrick Miles said in the release that while people in Dane County are “fortunate” to live in a county with strong growth in its tax base, more residents should benefit.

“We recognize that economic prosperity is not equally shared and focused the budget on helping youth, immigrants, and the homeless,” he said.

Focus on flooding

The budget responds to this summer’s flooding with several million dollars’ worth of fixes.

It includes an unprecedented $3 million to improve water flow in the Yahara River and other “pinch points,” enabling water to move more quickly out of county lakes during and after high rainfall. There is also a $1 million matching grant for park/trail repair, including a $500,000 stream bank restoration fund to help habitat recovery, reduce future erosion and promote a healthy wildlife habitat

The county has also started a $750,000 program to pay farmers and property owners to convert portions of their lands to permanent cover to keep water where it lands, and has set aside $9 million to permanently secure properties to improve the county’s ability to reduce stormwater runoff and improve water quality in key areas.

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