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Milwaukee County Launches Balancing Act, Announces Upcoming Budget Open Houses

Milwaukee County officials today rolled out the next step in 2021 Milwaukee County budget engagement by launching budget open houses and Balancing Act, an interactive online tool simulating the process to balance the 2021 budget. Users will analyze the $1.2 billion budget and determine ways to close the County’s estimated $42.5 million budget gap. Balancing Act, available on the Milwaukee County website, is now open.

“We strive to make the needed investments in equity in neighborhoods throughout Milwaukee County, but it’s no secret that irresponsible decisions made decades ago combined with the growing weight of state mandated services and state-imposed restrictions on funding have placed the County in a difficult financial position,” said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley. “Once again, we are asking residents to get involved in the budget process to make their priorities known and help us make the decisions necessary to move Milwaukee County forward on our path towards achieving racial equity.”

After national record-breaking participation in Balancing Act last year, Milwaukee County has used participant data to make enhancements to the tool. Although more than 1,000 people submitted balanced budgets last year, over 70% of participants had a bachelor’s degree or higher and spent an average of 23 minutes on the website. In the spirit of equity, the County has simplified the tool to reach a broader audience. Officials expect the 2021 budget tool will now take about 10 to 15 minutes to balance.

This does not mean the decisions are any easier. Milwaukee County’s structural deficit has compounded over the years, due in part to the imbalance of revenue the County receives from the state and state-imposed caps to raise revenue locally. Without adequate support from the state or the option to use new tools to generate necessary funding going forward, Milwaukee County’s ability to maintain facilities, preserve community assets and provide high-quality services in the face of COVID-19 will be decimated.

Despite Milwaukee County’s consistent economic growth over the past decade, our funding imbalance has forced us to make significant cuts. Since 2012, Milwaukee County has cut $278 million. This averages roughly $30 million per year, more than the entire tax levy funding for our Parks Department, District Attorney’s office, and Emergency Management services combined.

Each year, departments rise to the challenge, closing these annual gaps by creating efficiencies, streamlining services, and making the county leaner. But these cuts—year, after year, after year—are unsustainable. They have severely limited our ability to invest in our neighborhoods, in our services, and in the people of Milwaukee County. Without change, by 2027 state mandates will consume all local tax dollars, leaving no funding for local priorities. Local tax dollars should fund local priorities, not just state services.

Once again, Balancing Act includes an option for participants to balance the budget by raising the sales tax. This option would require a change in state law, but has been widely supported by local governments, the business community and community leaders through the Move Forward MKE initiative.

Residents will also have a chance to join the County Executive and County Supervisors to share their budget priorities, weigh in on new revenue options, and ask questions about the upcoming budget during the 2021 Budget Open House Series.

What: Virtual 2021 Budget Open House
When: 9:00 AM, Tuesday, August 25
Where: Virtual Open House
Who: Milwaukee County Residents, County Supervisors, and County Executive

What: Virtual 2021 Budget Open House
When: Noon, Wednesday, September 2
Where: Virtual Open House
Who: Milwaukee County Residents, County Supervisors, and County Executive

What: Virtual and In-Person 2021 Budget Open House
When: 6:00 PM, Tuesday, September 8
Where: Virtual Open House and In-person at Milwaukee County Courthouse, 901 N. 9th Street, Room 307*
Who: Milwaukee County Residents, County Supervisors, and County Executive
*In-person meeting provided to accommodate those who are unable to join via internet or phone. It is highly recommended that residents participate virtually if they are able to do so.

If participants wish to provide oral testimony at the virtual open houses, they must register at least 24 hours in advance by visiting: https://county.milwaukee.gov/EN/Administrative-Services/Performance-Strategy-and-Budget/Balancing-Act#budget_open_house

ADA accommodation requests should be filed with the Office for Persons with Disabilities, 414-278-3932 (voice), 0r 711 (TRS), upon receipt of this notice.

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MILWAUKEE COUNTY EXECUTIVE OFFICE

(414) 278-4211 | fax: (414) 223-1375
Milwaukee County Courthouse, Room 306
901 N. 9th Street | Milwaukee, WI 53233
 

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