Hundreds show up for Fitchburg budget hearing

Published: Oct. 10, 2017 at 10:27 PM CDT
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There has been a budget battle in Fitchburg between the city's mayor and some city non-profit organizations.

Mayor Jason Gonzalez has proposed a $20M operating budget for 2018 . The proposed budget cuts would eliminate $125,000 in city funding to local non-profits like the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County and Badger Prairie Needs Network.

On Tuesday, the first public hearing brought in more than a hundred people. Some had to stand outside of council chambers because the room was at capacity.

Many people at the meeting wore t-shirts that said "Stand Up for Our Kids" and there were signs that said "Our Kids are a Priority".

This was in response to the mayor's proposed budget that doesn't include funding for non-profits organizations. The Boys and Girls Club of Dane County President and CEO Michael Johnson has been one of the most outspoken about the cuts and he said it can have devastating consequences to the community.

"The impact on the cuts that they're going to make will impact 4,500 Fitchburg residents. 800 something kids and adults who come to the Boys and Girl's Clubs and over 2,400 families who receive food from the food pantry and Thanksgiving, itwould impact about 1,000 people we serve then," said Michael Johnson, Boys and Girl's Club of Dane County CEO and President.

Fitchburg's Mayor, Jason Gonzalez, said these cuts need to be made in order to keep up with the growing city. He said the proposed operating budget isn't done and there's room for city alders to come up with their own proposals to decide how to distribute the money to local organizations.

"By giving roughly you know I think roughly $300,000 before we hit the levy limit and that's the state law where we can't levy any more taxes that gives the alders the room to make some decisions on what they want to add or what they want to take out and add," said City of Fitchburg Mayor Jason Gonzalez.

Last week, some community leaders said they began the recall process of the Fitchburg mayor after the controversy over the budget. They say if city alders don't show support for non-profit groups, they have a plan to recall them as well.

At Tuesday’s public hearing people living in Fitchburg had different opinions about the mayor's proposed budget. While a majority of those at the meeting were against the proposed cuts to non-profit funding, some residents say they're happy with the mayor's budget because they say he has the taxpayer's best interest in mind.

Michael Johnson said he has started fundraising for the Boys and Girls Club on his own. He said he has raised about $75,000. He added that they will do whatever it takes to help kids in the community.

City alders will have until Thursday at 4:30 to submit amendments to the mayor's proposed budget. There will be another public hearing on the amended budget on November 14th at 7:30 p.m. That's also when city council members will vote on passing the budget.

Copyright 2017: WMTV