Dane County Executive Joe Parisi

County executive Joe Parisi called housing affordability “one of the greatest challenges communities in Dane County will face as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.”

Citing the greatest financial losses Dane County government has experienced in nearly a decade, county executive Joe Parisi introduced his 2021 budget proposal last week that includes a 4% levy increase. It now moves to the county board for discussion and a vote next month.

The proposed 2021 operating budget of $615.5 million and capital budget of $71.7 million, with a levy increase of 4.09%, would increase county taxes on the average home by around $30. It also includes$1 million for a new isolation room at the Badger Prairie Health Care Center.

Parisi spoke at Dane County’s Emergency Management Office in Blooming Grove on Thursday, Oct. 1, laying out the county’s plans to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, while prioritizing human services, equity, renewable energy and conservation.

“This budget was deeply challenging, in the midst of what has been an incredibly difficult year for all of us, at every level,” he said in a Thursday, Oct. 1 county news release. “Because we have built upon our legacy year after year with innovative efforts to support mental health in our schools and community, protected hundreds of new acres each year for families to recreate, and meet families where they are at with critical supports, we are better prepared to face the full throes of this global catastrophe.”

County sales tax collections are on track to end the year down around $12 million , Parisi said, with revenues from county entities like the Henry Vilas Zoo and Alliant Energy Center having also decreased. He said the budget offsets those short-term losses through use of the county’s rainy day fund, which “will sustain county government services largely as the community knows them for 2021.” There are no across-the-board wage reductions or furloughs in the budget.

“This budget buffers both the services Dane County provides and the staff who provide them from the greatest financial losses county government has experienced since the national Great Recession nearly a decade ago,” Parisi said.

Email Unified Newspaper Group reporter Scott De Laruelle at scott.delaruelle@wcinet.com.