Local leader reacts to funding cuts in Fitchburg

Published: Sep. 25, 2017 at 10:31 PM CDT
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FITCHBURG, Wis. (WMTV) -- After Fitchburg mayor Jason Gonzalez announced that he would cut over $100,000 from non-profits in his 2018 budget proposal, one local non-profit leader is calling on the mayor to make a different decision.

Calling - and texting, and writing. Michael Johnson says he hasn't heard back yet.

"Between texts, phone calls and emails, no response," the Boys and Girls Club Dane County CEO said Monday. BGCDC would stand to lose about twenty percent of their total funding if the city passes the mayor's budget as is. It's a decision Johnson calls "inexcusable."

"Cutting funding from the most vulnerable people who live in Fitchburg -- kids and people who are struggling to eat," he said.

In a phone call with NBC15 Monday night, Gonzalez explained his rationale - but said he had nothing left to explain to Johnson.

"I have no intent of speaking with him, " said Gonzalez, calling Johnson a "bully" and saying he had taken inappropriate actions such as threatening city officials with protests in order to maintain funding.

In regard to the funding cuts, Gonzalez said that "it's not something I take pleasure doing at all," acknowledging the value of at-risk youth initiatives but saying that he decided to cut non-profit funding out of the budget instead of having to choose a limited number of groups to favor with funding.

Gonzalez said that he was tasked with fulfilling several new financial needs in the budget, including hiring a public works person to maintain Highway PD when Fitchburg takes it over from the county, which he said was the only staffing increase in the budget. He also mentioned that he was preparing for a $356,000 increase that will be needed in 2019 for an ambulance and seven new paramedics.

Gonzalez says this doesn't mean Boys and Girls Club's funding will necessarily be cut permanently - but that Johnson will have to change his tune before they can talk about future budgets."

"Clearly there was a negative tone right from the beginning," says Gonzalez. "I responded to Mr. Johnson ... You're not going to bully me or the council. I believe he hung up on me. I have nothing to say to Mr. Johnson at this point. He can come testify at our public hearings. He's more than welcome."

Johnson says he will - or he'll do whatever he needs to to sway city officials to maintain the funding they voted to keep last year.

"The city council voted on that last year and knew that that was something that needed to take place," said Johnson. "This city has an obligation to provide for our children, and to me, it's non-negotiable."

Copyright: WMTV 2017