Making Laws for Milwaukee County
The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors is a legislative body of 18 representatives, each of whom is elected to a two-year term on the nonpartisan spring ballot in even-numbered years. Each Supervisor represents about 53,000 people.
At the beginning of each term, the County Board elects one of its members to serve as chairperson. The Chairperson presides over Board meetings, makes assignments to the standing committees and special subcommittees and handles the department's daily business.
The Board's business is conducted through committee and Board meetings. Meetings are open and the public is welcome to attend. Public comment, usually limited to two minutes, is welcome at committee meetings. Please note that due to Coronavirus precautions, all meeting are currently conducted virtually. You sign up to testify virtually at an upcoming committee meeting here.
The Board's power to determine policy and direct county government comes from its state-vested authority to adopt resolutions and ordinances. Because of this authority, the Board is able to establish programs, services and laws for the County.
At regular meetings of the County Board, Supervisors consider, vote on, and adopt or reject proposed ordinance changes and resolutions. Much of the deliberative work is conducted through the Board's nine standing committees, where Supervisors hear reports from County departments, independent agencies and the public.
One of the major responsibilities of the Board of Supervisors is to adopt the annual Milwaukee County budget. By October 1 of each year, the County Executive presents his Recommended Budget to the Board. The Finance Committee spends about six weeks hearing departmental budget requests, deliberating over budget amendments, and recommending changes to the Executive Budget to the full Board. After a public hearing on the budget, the Board of Supervisors adopts the next year's budget in early November.
A Fair Deal for Milwaukee County
For too long, Milwaukee County has been forced to delay necessary maintenance in our parks and facilities, and put off important investments in public infrastructure and popular cultural venues.
In recent years, budget cuts have threatened public services that our neighbors depend on every day.
This is why Milwaukee County leaders have joined together with business and community leaders to propose a Fair Deal for Milwaukee County.
Find out more about the Fair Deal proposal here.
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Creating New Legislation
A supervisor, either through personal observation or from a suggestion by a citizen or county staff, can develop and submit a resolution or ordinance for consideration by the County Board. The chairperson then assigns it to a particular standing committee which has jurisdiction in that area. For example, proposed legislation dealing with bus service would be referred to the Transportation, Public Works & Transit Committee for review and recommendation.
Alternatively, a supervisor can bypass the committee process and ask for suspension of the rules in order to ask for immediate consideration of the legislation at a County Board meeting. If the Board agrees, the matter is debated and a vote is taken when the matter is introduced. When going through the committee process, the legislation may need further study or a legal opinion. It is then referred to the appropriate County department and returns for committee debate at a later date. The committee may hold public hearings on the measure to determine how citizens view the matter. Bus fare changes, the annual budget and transit route service changes are some of the items that require a public hearing.
When the committee has completed its work, the proposed legislation is brought to the County Board for a vote. For most legislation, a simple majority vote is enough. A two-thirds vote, of members present, is required for specific items such as creating new employment positions, temporary borrowing of money or to override the veto of the County Executive.
Milwaukee County Budget Process
The Milwaukee County budget is an important document that serves several purposes. First, the budget serves as a financial and operational blueprint that aids departmental administrators in the delivery of needed services. Second, it functions as a statement of policy developed and approved by the County's elected officials. Finally, the budget is a source of information for the general public, empowering the public to better understand the many functions of County government, county operations and how resources are allocated in furtherance of the County's mission.
In June, all Milwaukee County departments submit budget requests to the County Executive's Administration. Milwaukee County was the first municipality in the nation to declare racism a public health crisis in April 2019, and all departments now use the County's "Racial Equity Budget Tool," a structured process that applies a racial equity analysis to critically assess the impacts of budget decisions on communities of color.
A summary of departmental requests is released on or before August 15. The County Executive holds public meetings in August and September to gather public input before finalizing their budget proposal, and also solicits input via “Balancing Act,” a budget simulation tool. State Statutes require the County Executive to submit their budget proposal to the County Board by Oct. 1. The County Executive's proposal is known as the "Recommended Budget."
After the County Board of Supervisors receives the Recommended Budget, the Research Division of the Comptroller's office provides Supervisors with an independent analysis of the Recommended Budget, known as the "Overview." Download the Comptroller's "Overview of the 2021 Milwaukee County Budget" here. Staff from the Research Division then works with Supervisors to develop and draft budget amendments that are considered by the Finance Committee during the month of October.
Throughout the month of October, many Supervisors host town hall style meetings to seek input on the Recommended Budget from their constituents. State Statues require the Board of Supervisors to host an annual public hearing on the following year's budget no later than the first Monday in November. After the annual public hearing, Supervisors may propose additional amendments to the Finance Committee, which then approves an amended budget.
After the Finance Committee approves an amended budget, the full County Board holds a budget adoption meeting. Supervisors vote to adopt or reject proposed budget amendments, and then vote on a final version of the budget, which is called the Adopted Budget. The Adopted Budget then goes to the County Executive for their signature. The County Executive can veto any part of the Adopted Budget. If the County Executive issues vetoes, the Board of Supervisors then has a final opportunity to meet where they vote to accept the Executive's vetoes or reject them.
Click here to see the 2021 Adopted Budget.
Meetings: Past, In-Progress and Scheduled
Looking for an agenda for a committee meeting?
Looking for meeting minutes?
Looking for a resolution or another item that came before a committee?
Use the County Legislative Information Center, or CLIC.
You can search CLIC for county legislative files, meeting agendas and meeting minutes from 2012 to present.
Intern With the County Board of Supervisors
Interning at the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors will give students interested in public policy a unique introduction to local government. Interns will be exposed to the inner workings of the legislative process as it pertains to Milwaukee County. Under direct supervision of current public servants, interns will play an integral part in the daily functions of the Board.
Special Committees, Task Forces and Commissions
The following are County Board special committees, task forces and commissions. For information on these and past or inactive special committees, task forces and commissions, contact the County Clerk.
FREE Local Attractions and Fun Ideas for the Family
Milwaukee County residents and visitors can enjoy free local attractions at our most popular destinations!
Attractions include the Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee County Zoo, Milwaukee Public Museum, Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory Domes, Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum, Boerner Botanical Gardens and the Charles Allis Art Museum