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It’s budget season in Madison!

And we’re here to help you make sense of how the city and county spends your tax dollars.

And we’re here to help you make sense of how the city and county spends your tax dollars.

The City of Madison has released its proposed 2023 capital and operating budgets and scheduled virtual community sessions for tomorrow, Oct. 13, and Monday, Oct. 24. Both sessions are from 5:30 pm to 7 pm.

Here is the link to join the Oct. 13 session live on Zoom. And here is the link to join the Oct. 24 sessions live (also on Zoom). The sessions will also be streamed, so if you don’t want to join on Zoom you can watch live on Oct. 13 here and on Oct. 24 here. You can also find information on or watch recordings of committee budget discussion on the city’s Legistar site.

Dane County has also released its proposed budget documents for 2023, including requests from departments, a breakdown by line items, and County Executive Joe Parisi’s proposed budget and budget memo

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The County Board has a public hearing on the budget scheduled for Oct. 19 at 6 pm. You can attend in person at the City-County Building, 210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Room 201, or virtually over Zoom (that link will be available when the agenda is posted). You can also find information on or watch recordings of committee budget discussion on the county’s Legistar.

But if you’re someone who opens budget documents and your eyes immediately glaze over, I get it. Budgets can easily become overwhelming. Cities, counties, any government really, do not operate like households and they handle some big numbers. To most households, one million dollars is a lot of money, but for a school system? The City of Madison? It’s hard to get a sense of proportion, of what’s needed and what’s excessive. 

And we’re here to help! Tone Madison Managing Editor Oona Mackesey-Green published a guide last year on how the city’s budget is drafted and how to make sense of it. We’ll also be publishing analysis of what’s in this year’s budget. 

Which is where you, dear reader, could help us. We at Tone Madison want to know: What do you want to see in the budget?

Because in many ways, a budget is even more important than policy. If the city or county says they want something done but don’t put any or enough money towards that goal, what are the odds it’ll actually happen? And if it has to happen, what is being put on the backburner? 

Then-Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden said at a campaign stop in 2008, “My dad used to have an expression: ‘Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.’” Anyone who wants to be involved and have a say in politics needs some level of understanding of how budgets work and how those decisions are made. 

Let us know at [email protected] what questions you have about the budget. Where do you want our money to go? And what values do you want reflected?

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