October 1, 2018
Building a Better 414: Milwaukee County Executive Pushes for Long-Term Funding Solutions in Introducing 2019 Budget
Abele notes temporary fix won’t be possible in coming years, and Milwaukee County services are threatened by state limitations on county financing
Milwaukee - Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele introduced the recommended 2019 County budget today with an emphasis on the partnerships that built the budget – and on the coalition that will be needed to reform the state-funding structure and help community leaders build a better 414 in years to come.
“More than any other year, this has been a highly collaborative process to create a budget that balances our most critical needs and biggest priorities against the massive financial constraints we’re working under,” said Abele. “I’m grateful to all of the County leaders who took part throughout the entire planning process, including members of the Board of Supervisors. Their input has been immensely valuable.”
He continued, “All in all, the 2019 budget is a temporary fix. There are small cuts across the board, and we don’t have the resources to make the large-scale investments that Milwaukee County needs going forward. We all understand what it’s going to take to make that happen: joining together and working with the State of Wisconsin to give counties a fair share of funding and more options to tackle large projects.”
In addition to the County’s own projections, recent reports from the Wisconsin Policy Forum together convey the scope of the infrastructure issues piling onto an already overburdened system of services:
- Milwaukee County Parks and cultural institutions have built up more than $200 million in deferred maintenance
- A critically needed new Safety Building would incur a total project cost of about $350 million (“The Jury Is Out,” Wisconsin Policy Forum)
- Regardless of the chosen outcome, tens of millions of dollars would be required to preserve functionality of the Mitchell Park Domes
- The County needs to continue to invest to upgrade its bus fleet in support of the Milwaukee County Transit System, as well as improve and repair roads and bridges (“A Fork in the Road,” Wisconsin Policy Forum)
- New options are required for other critically important County facilities, including the Medical Examiner’s Office (“Cracks in the Foundation,” Wisconsin Policy Forum)
“The services we provide that the State requires – including courts, mental health, child support and many more – are only partially funded by the state. We’ve been using local tax dollars to shore them up and ensure we provide the best possible services, but it’s coming at the cost of us investing in our parks, our museums, public safety and more,” said Abele.
Milwaukee County provides an essential set of services that affect the everyday lives of everyone in the county, which residents can see when they start to look at the effects of years of temporary fixes – including the 2019 budget.
“There are some changes that people will notice right away if this budget passes as written, but for the most part, it’s coming a little bit at a time,” noted Abele. “The grass might not be mowed in our parks quite as frequently. It might take our caseworkers a little more time to check in with each client we serve because their caseloads are going up. Repairs in our buildings might not get fixed as quickly.
“Our employees have shown an incredible capacity to do more with less, but at a certain point, nobody can do more with less. At a certain point, you notice the change – and that’s not the direction we want to be going to make our County better,” he added.
Abele seeks to build a coalition of voices from across the community to ensure that, by the 2020 budget, the County is able to plan toward building a better 414, not making short-term fixes or significant cuts.
Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors Chairman Theodore Lipscomb Sr. said, "Each year, we strive to pass a responsible budget that balances the needs of our constituents with the limited resources available to Milwaukee County, but each year that balance is harder to strike.
“Milwaukee County is overdue for a ‘Fair Deal’ with the State of Wisconsin that properly funds mandated services, provides us the tools to meet our long-term obligations and invests in essential quality of life services of health and safety, transportation, and parks," noted Lipscomb.
Abele encouraged community leaders and all residents of Milwaukee County to visit ABetter414.com to find out more information and to show their support for a state funding solution that enables Milwaukee County to empower its residents toward better lives and help strengthen the community.