La Crosse 2016 improvements budget estimated near $40 million

Final approval expected in October

Improvements within the city of La Crosse next year will total about $40 million.

Each year the city creates its Capital Improvement budget. Tuesday night was the first step in approving next year’s project funding.

The Capital Improvement Program is kind of like a wish list. Each department within the city gives a list of the projects it would like to complete over the next four years, next to that is the dollar amount for each one. Projects are then prioritized and the money for improvements is divvied up, which creates the budget.

At last look, city leaders were asking for quite a bit more money for their 2016 improvements than was allowed in the Capital Improvements Program. So it was back to the drawing board.

“We sat down as a really a team of staff, each one of the departments represented, and then we went through and in essence kind of prioritized the priorities and made some really hard choices as far as the projects that would get funded and those that would have to wait a year or two,” La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat said.

Kabat said the city will be using unspent bond money, grants and funds generated through TIF districts in the city as well borrowing $8 million to fund all of the 2016 improvement projects.

Among the biggest budgets; the Parks and Recreation Department is asking for about $1.2 million, street improvements total nearly $1.9 million, the La Crosse Center is hoping for $2 million for its pending renovation and the airport asking for nearly $6 million in 2016.

“We got additional funds today that they put in for street improvements, which I think is a big need,” Kabat said at Tuesday night’s City Planning Commission meeting.

The budget lays out the plans for 2016-2020, although the focus right now is only on next year.

But the La Crosse Fire Department has $5 million on its improvement budget in 2017 for a new fire station on the south side.

“The new station, that we don’t have a location determined yet (for), would improve response times for the areas that are East of the railroad tracks and South of the Mormon Coulee overpass,” said Assistant Chief Warren Thomas said.

Kabat said this year’s improvement budget is pretty much right on pace with previous years in terms of funding.

He said one thing he is most looking forward to, however, is continuing to improve La Crosse neighborhoods.

“We’re looking at that special program, $750,000 for two of our neighborhoods to really get at some specific projects for those neighborhood areas,” Kabat said.

When it comes to street improvements, Kabat said for the past three to four years the city has set aside funds for Lang Drive and La Crosse Street. He said the Wisconsin Department of Transportation continues to push those projects back. Kabat said it could be 2017 before any work is done there.

Tuesday night the City Planning Commission approved the Capital Improvement Budget, but that is just the first hurdle. Now it moves on to City Council committees.

A final vote is expected in October.

Click here for a look at the full 2016-2020 La Crosse Capital Improvement Program budget