It is important that voters are aware of ballot questions before they head to the polls for the April 6 election so I wanted to share information on advisory referendum questions the Common Council has added to the ballot. 

This Spring Election ballot will ask Madison voters four advisory referendum questions about the size of the Madison Common Council, the amount of alderperson pay, the length of alderperson terms, and whether alderpersons should be subject to term limits. 

The Madison Common Council is asking these questions now as part of a multi-year City initiative to investigate whether changes to the structure of Madison’s government could improve representation and engagement for all of Madison residents, including people of color and those living with low incomes.

A citywide Task Force on the structure of city government has studied the issue, and made recommendations to the Madison Common Council. In its Final Report, the Task Force recommended that the City transition to a 10-member full-time Common Council with alderpersons earning approximately $67,000 per year. It also recommended that alderpersons serve four-year (instead of their current two-year) terms and be subject to term limits of twelve (12) consecutive years. 

It is important to stress this referendum is advisory only. It will not bind the City or make any immediate change. Instead, the City will use this information to gauge resident’s’ interest in pursuing these possible changes, including in a possible binding referendum in spring 2022. If implemented, the changes would take effect in spring 2023.

The four questions will appear on the ballot as follows:
1. Madison currently has a part time Common Council with members who are paid approximately thirteen thousand seven hundred dollars ($13,700) per year. Beginning with the 2023 Spring Election, SHOULD the City of Madison transition to a full time Common Council with each Common Council member earning between fifty percent (50%) to eighty percent (80%) of the Adjusted Median Income for Dane County for a single parent with two children (approximately $45,000 to $71,000 per year)?

2. Madison currently has a part-time Common Council comprised of twenty (20) alderpersons, one from each alderperson district. Beginning with the 2023 Spring Election, SHOULD the size of the City of Madison Common Council:
Be reduced
Be increased
Remain the same

3. Madison alderpersons are currently elected to two (2) year terms. The Madison Mayor is currently elected to four (4) year terms. Beginning with the 2023 Spring Election, SHOULD City of Madison alderpersons be elected to four (4) year terms?

4. Madison alderpersons are currently not subject to term limits. Beginning with the 2023 Spring Election, if the City transitions to a full time Common Council SHOULD the City of Madison alderpersons be subject to term limits of twelve (12) consecutive years?

These are big questions for the future of our City. I encourage you to learn about them and discuss them with friends, neighbors and please remember to vote April 6! Check out the resources below. 


  • Read the Common Council resolutions authorizing the advisory referendum HERE or by contacting contact the City Clerk’s Office at City Clerk’s Office, 210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, Room 103, Madison, Wisconsin 53703; (608) 266-4601.
  • Watch District Reports episode on the Spring Referendum and Review the Task Force on the Structure of City Government Final Report to the Mayor and Common Council HERE.
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